Manakeesh is not something I would usually make at home. But, this past weekend I went to visit my in-laws and we went out to get some freshly made manakeesh. I devoured it like a ravenous beast and since then I’ve been thinking of it constantly. I became so obsessed that I bought everything I needed to make it. When I visit bigger cities I become like a child in a candy store, don’t let me loose! Not many middle eastern groceries are available in my small city, then again what is *smirk*? (As you can tell I can’t wait for my husband to finish med school).
I was thinking of buying some pizza dough from a bakery but then I thought that would just be the easy way out. If I’m going to make manakeesh might as well really make manakeesh. To any of you who don’t know what manakeesh is, well it’s an arabic/lebanese type of flatbread with different toppings, most popularly za’atar. Za’atar is an herb blend of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and olive oil. I had never eaten it until I tried it at Al-Taib in Montreal. They fill the manakeesh with pickled radishes, tomatoes, onions, olives, and lettuce. My friends and I would go to Al-Taib sometimes at 3 in the morning because they were always open. Thank God for that because you never know when a manakeesh craving will come around. (Note: The za’atar manakeesh is vegan!)
I topped the manakeesh with za’atar and akawi cheese. Akawi is a semi soft cheese that is often in a salt bath. If Akawi is not available in your area, you can try Halloumi, which I have seen in major supermarkets. I love akawi manakeesh and I top it off with a little sprinkling of chili flakes. The cheese is mild yet still packs a lot of creamy, salty flavor.
Also, don’t be afraid of the dough. Believe me when I tell you that I am NOT a dough person. I have had many dough disasters, but the dough I prepared for the manakeesh was fool proof. It was so soft and pliable. Not to sound odd, but it felt like a baby’s skin. Go ahead, and brave the dough! It will be sooo worth it! Plus, this dough is multipurpose. So use it for pizza, manakeesh, calzones, and so on.
makes 8 medium sized rounds
Ingredients for Dough
1 packet dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Place the yeast in a small bowl, with sugar and warm water. Let it activate, about 10 minutes. In another bowl mix the flour and salt together. After the yeast mixture is activated add the olive oil in with the liquids. Using a dough hook on a hand mixer (or stand mixer-still hoping for one *sigh*) add the yeast mixture into the flour. Do not over mix. Just enough so that the dough comes together. If necessary add a little extra water or extra flour depending on the consistency of your dough. It should be a little sticky at this point. Knead the dough lightly for about 5-10 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, make sure to coat the dough ball with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place. I let my dough rise for 2 hours. Once it has risen knead it a little more and separate into 8 balls. Let the balls rise for 15 more minutes. At this point preheat the oven to 375 degrees Then strech the balls out with your hands so that they are about 1/2 an inch thick and have a diameter of about 8 inches. Brush the top with a little olive oil. Top with za’atar or akawi. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The dough should not get brown just light golden.
Za’atar is simply prepared by mixing the herb mix with an equal amount of olive oil and salt to taste until it forms a paste then place a heaping tablespoon on the dough and spread it evenly.
For the akawi simply grate it and place about a large handful of cheese of top of the dough. Sprinkle with chili flakes and salt to taste.
I served cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, olives, mint, lemon, hummus, and labneh (thickened yogurt cheese) on the side. This is how they serve it at Al-Hallab in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The food at Al-Hallab is on another level! Also, in Dubai is Al-Reef, which has amazing manakeesh.