Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on June 4, 2015

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.comFlatbreads may be a relatively new innovation for us here in the USA, but in reality, they have a very long history and have been around for a very long time. Most are leavened with yeast, but others like the Jewish Matzoh, are not leavened at all. Some flatbreads are thick, like the Scottish Bannock, the Persian Barbari or the Turkish Bazlama, but others are thinner, like the Norwegian Flatbrød , the Amenian Lavash, the Italian Piadina, and of course, the Middle Eastern pita.  Some are even filled, like the Afghan Bolani, Moroccan Msemen or the Turkish Gozleme.

Some are baked in conventional ovens, outside grills, wood fired ovens, hearths, tandoor ovens or large domed, metal ovens on top of which the dough is gently draped to bake. Many flatbreads are deep fried like Navajo fry bread, and others are quickly pan fried in hot skillets, like my pocket-less pita.

In actuality, virtually every country around the world enjoys one version or another of flatbread —  some with historical references dating all the way back to ancient Egypt and Sumeria.

On a recent visit to one of my favorite international grocery stores in Silver Spring, I picked up some za’atar mix (a spice mix that generally includes thyme, oregano, marjoram, salt, sesame seeds, salt and sumac, my family also added ground cumin and coriander), some labneh (a delightfully tart and thick yogurt/sour cream type of cream), and some akawi cheese (a very gooey cheese traditionally used in Knefe). You may be tempted to call this a pizza, but it really isn’t — at least not in the traditional sense. A flatbread may not necessarily be served like pizza as a meal, but may also appear in a bread basket to accompany a meal.

In this delicious creation, all of these lovely ingredients are piled on to my easy, thin crust dough to make one of my favorite flatbreads. Eat it warm as a meal, or eat it cold accompanying a meal of soup or salad. It’s the perfect balance of creaminess and tartness and each bite simply bursts with flavor from all of those fragrant spices.

Lebanese Flatbread (makes 2 half sheet pans)
1 recipe thin crust dough
1 8-oz container of labneh
1 jar akawi cheese, shredded **use shredded mozzarella if you do not have this
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 ¼ cups olive oil (10 tablespoons for each flatbread)
6 tablespoons za’atar mix (3 tablespoons for each)

The night before you want to prepare the flatbreads, you need to prepare the dough and allow it to sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

If you are using akawi cheese, please keep in mind that it is sold in a jar filled with brine, so before you use it, you need to remove as much salt as possible from the cheese. You do this by soaking it in filtered water overnight. I usually change the water twice during the day as I let the cheese remain in a bowl of filtered water on my counter top, and then I cover it and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, you need to shred the cheese and set it aside as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Once proofed, cut the dough ball in half since this recipe makes 2 pans.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

If you are going to bake these directly on aluminum sheet pans, coat the pan very lightly with a thin coat of oil and then use your fingers to spread the dough out thinly to fit the entire pan. If you are going to bake this on a pizza stone, then use a little flour to roll out the dough very thinly, and put it on your pizza peel or on a piece of parchment paper to help ease onto your pizza stone.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Drizzle on 4 tablespoons of the olive oil onto each piece of dough, then sprinkle on the 1 tablespoon of coarse salt all over the dough. Dab 4 oz of labneh (half of a container for each) all over the dough, and then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of za’atar on top of the labneh. Add half the amount of shredded akawi cheese (about 1 cup or so for each) on top of the labneh, and then sprinkle on the last tablespoon of za’atar on top of the cheese. Drizzle on 4 more tablespoons of olive oil and then bake at 400°F until the flatbread has cooked through and the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Once the flatbread comes out of the oven, drizzle on another 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top of the flatbread, slice and serve.

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Lebanese Flatbread With Labneh, Akawi & Za’atar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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