The ultimate breakfast, a manousheh (plural manaiish) is a flatbread, a pizza-like pie, covered with za’atar (thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt) mixed with oil, and baked in the oven, or over a saj, which is a concave steel plaque with fire beneath it, and the flatbread cooks on the top. Its distinctive smell is typical of an early-morning mountain breakfast.
The flatbread goes well with some sliced tomato and cucumber and mint sprigs. Roll it all up and bite into a healthy breakfast. These manaiish are around 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter, but they can also be prepared as small bites, less than 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
For the dough:
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups (250 g) whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the spread:
- Olive oil
- Kamal Mouzawak
To prepare the dough, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in 1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm water (too cold, and the yeast will not be active and rise; too hot, and it will be killed). It should rise and double its amount or more, taking about 10 minutes.
Mix well the flour with the olive oil, so that every grain is coated with oil. Add the yeast mixture, salt, and enough warm water to form a dough. Add 1/2 cup at a time and knead well, so the dough doesn’t turn loose and liquid. The dough should be elastic enough and not stick to the hands or the bowl. Shape it into a ball and let it rest for at least 3 hours, covered, in a warm place, for the dough to rise to double its original volume.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, or gas mark 6).
Flour your hands and divide the dough. For individual regular-size manousheh, divide the dough into tennis ball–size pieces, roll into rounds, and sprinkle with flour. For nibble-size breads, divide the dough into big pieces, roll out thin, and cut out 4-inch (10-cm) disks with a cookie cutter (or a glass). Re-roll the dough to use it all, and arrange the rounds on a baking sheet.
Mix the za’atar with enough olive oil to obtain a semi-thick, spreadable consistency. Spread the za’atar mixture over the dough.
Bake individual-size manousheh for 15 minutes, until golden. Bake nibble-size manousheh on a baking sheet for around 10 minutes, until the bread is baked and the border starts coloring.