27 April 2011

Secret Family Recipe

I have decided to share the recipe for my savoury dough.  This is the same dough I use to make zahtar (herb pizza), spinach pies, cheese pies, and a myriad of other things.  Why is this such a big deal?  Well, it was passed down to me from D.'s mother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it from... it's been in the family for generations.  When I first had my MIL's homemade zahtar, I just had to get the recipe!  Seriously, if I'd had any doubts about marrying D., they would have been assuaged by the promise of obtaining this dough alone!

I can't tell you how many people have asked for this recipe.  I've always told it as it was told me: a pinch of this and a tad of that (obviously not very reproducible...).  By and by I got to thinking: I wasn't really a part of the family until I married D, so I only got this recipe by dumb luck.  So, I finally took the time to measure those pinches and tads using standard measurements and now I have a hopefully replicable recipe!

To those who received the "rough" recipe, I apologize.  Let me make it up to you properly.  :o)  I've named this recipe in honour of my MIL.  Her name means "princess" and in my books, she is definitely a queen in the kitchen!


3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
1 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Add yeast to warm water and leave to dissolve.  Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  When yeast foams on top, stir to mix well and add to dry mixture.  Add oil and mix  together.  If necessary, can add a little more water to achieve a dough-like consistency.  Dough should be cohesive but not sticky.  Knead well with hands for about 6-8 minutes. 

A little kitchen chemistry for you if you're:  Dough needs to be elastic in order to rise.  Kneading stretches the dough and forms gluten chains, which give bread it's chewy texture.  The more you knead, the chewier the final product will be (think pizzas).  The less you knead, the flakier the final product will be (think pies, pastries, etc.) 

Set dough aside in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel.  Let rise for about 90 minutes.  Punch down dough until there's no more air left.  Use to make cheese pies, zahtar, etc.  As a bonus, here is how you make zahtar.  :o)

A delicious Middle Eastern Herb Pizza

To make zahtar, you'll need 1 recipe of savoury dough as written above.  Divide dough into palm-size balls.  Roll out each ball on a floured surface until about 1 cm thick.  Place on baking tray.  Take about 4-5 Tbsp zahtar - a blend of sesame seeds, sumac and thyme - which can be found at Middle Eastern markets, place in a small bowl and add about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil until it forms a runny paste.  Cover surface of dough with zahtar mixture.  Bake in over at 350 for approximately 15-20 minutes until the bottom is golden.  Serve with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and olives. 

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