Monday, April 29, 2013

Zayt-and-Za'atar Sourdough Crackers

Zayt (olive oil) and za'atar is to Palestinians what peanut butter and jelly is to Americans. Zayt-and-za'atar - they just belong together.  We love to dip fresh bread into olive oil, and then into a bowl of za'atar.  I thought:  Why not make a cracker that does it for you?

Zayt-and-za'atar crackers!

As you know, za'atar, the Middle Eastern seasoning blend of thyme, sumac, sesame and salt, has been on my mind.  I particularly wanted to make something with za'atar today because my little boy is a little under the weather, and I have been reading about the medicinal value of thyme.  Recently, I have been making traditional mana'eesh, a flat bread brushed with za'atar and olive oil. These crackers share the same flavors - they are salty, a little nutty from the sesame seeds, and between the olive oil, thyme and lemony sumac, they taste like black olive tapenade to me.  While splendid served by themselves, these crackers can really become lunch players when served with hummus or labani and a bowl of cut vegetables. 

Basic Cracker Recipe 

Since we made the switch to real, traditionally-prepared foods, one of the things that we stopped buying was crackers.  We still have crackers in the house, but since I make them, they are an occasional (and much loved) treat.  I like sourdough crackers because souring grains breaks down phytic acids, which would otherwise bind to nutrients and deplete them from our bodies. 

My favorite recipe for crackers is this one, Sourdough Whole Wheat Crackers, from Kitchen Stewardship.  We have rolled these crackers out many times, and usually top them with a little butter or olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt.  They have a slight sourdough tang, especially if you let the dough ferment for more than eight hours. I really enjoy this recipe because I always have all of the ingredients on hand, and it uses up extra sourdough starter that might otherwise be discarded.  These crackers can be crunchy or tender depending on how you bake them, and they are slightly flaky and have an almost cheesy flavor to them.

I modified the recipe by using olive oil in the cracker, kneading za'atar into the dough, and then topping it with more za'atar.  I like the za'atar inside the dough instead of just as a topping because the flavor of the za'atar infuses into the cracker.  It's also less messy.   In fact, if you are feeding little ones, skip the extra za'atar on top because it will fall off. 

Fresh from the oven

Zayt-and-Za'atar Sourdough Crackers

1 cup sourdough starter, straight from the fridge
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp za'atar*

For the topping:
Additional olive oil
Additional za'atar
Sea Salt

1.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, olive oil, flour and salt.  Kneed together until smooth and well combined, for a couple of minutes.  Add za'atar, kneed again until thoroughly incorporated. 

2.  Cover with a towel, and leave on a counter top for eight hours, or overnight.  It can be left out longer, and it will just become a little more tangy.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Divide dough in half, and roll half of the dough out directly onto a large baking stone or sheet pan.  The dough should be very thin.  Spread a little olive oil onto the dough, sprinkle with za'atar and a little sea salt.  Cut with a pizza cutter or knife into desired shapes (we like diamonds).

4.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  If you have a gas oven, you can turn off the heat after that and leave the crackers in the oven for another 15-20 minutes until they become crisp.  They will become even crispier after they cool. 

*Za'atar can be purchased at large grocery stores, Middle Eastern grocers, or online. If you want to make it, combine 1/4 cup ground thyme, 1/4 cup ground sumac, 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1 tsp sea salt.

May this double your health!

Related posts: 

*Za'atar Bread, or Mana'eesh

*Spotlight on Ancient Herbs: Za'atar and Sumac

*Sourdough Arabic Bread

*Middle Eastern Breakfast Bowl: Za'atar Potato Hash with Fried Egg


  1. I (unsuccessfully) tried making crackers once before, and they joined meringues on the list of things my husband would prefer I not attempt make because it usually ends in emotional turmoil. :) I tried these (as my husband watched nervously); they are great! And they were actually super easy. Now I have more make-ahead lunch/snack ideas for my toddler, and something to use up sourdough starter when we get tired of pancakes. Thanks!

    1. I am so glad! Those crackers are such winners, in my opinion (and I'm talking about the Kitchen Stewardship's original recipe). So easy and so yummy. I hope you enjoy them for many years!

  2. Trying your spice mix on chicken drumsticks this evening. Smells good in here....

  3. I don't know why I didn't try these sooner. I didn't use any za'taar, but they are still so easy, delicious and a great use for discarded starter. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. You are welcome! Crackers seemed intimidating to me before I learned how to make these, but now I make them all of the time. I like to make double batches and stick them in the fridge for a quick snack later. So glad you like them!

  4. This is the best use I have found yet for my sourdough starter. Excellent for snacking, adaptable to other seasonings... the perfect cracker recipe. Thank you.

    Your blog is lovely, I'm enjoying poking around and reading it.


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!