Fatayer Zaatar (thyme & akawai cheese bread)

Akawi cheese (also spelled Akawi, Akkawi, Akawieh, or Ackawi) is a Middle Eastern cheese named after the Aker region of Palestine, where it first originated. In Arabic, akkawi means “from akka”. It is soft unripened brine cheese with a chewy, smooth consistency and a very mild, slightly salty flavour. The cheese is widely popular across most of the Levant where it is used as a table cheese, eaten as it or paired with a fruit.

Zaatar is the Arabic word of thyme, it is a wild herb that grows throughout hills and fields of the Levant and East Mediterranean regions. Zaatar has become (along with the olive tree) a symbol of the land of Palestine. It is strongly associated with the Palestinian identity and, as a result, is being widely adopted by poets, writers and artists in their writings and songs.

Palestinian pastry mostly made in spring, which is the official season of collecting fresh wild thyme. It is a flat bread, oily but crunchy, stuffed with fresh zaatar leaves, onions and sumac and akawi cheese.

(recipe and image produced by Palestinian Food)


Dough Ingredients: 
3 cups white flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

Filling Ingredients:
2 to 3 cups fresh zaatar leaves (thyme)
1 medium size onion
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
Akawi cheese


For the Dough: In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil. Rub the mixture together until the oil is well combined into the flour. Gradually add one cup of warm water while kneading using one hand (add more water if the dough is dry or flour if it is too sticky). Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in a warm place for about 30 to 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
For the Filling: Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine the zaatar (thyme) leaves, finely chopped onions, sumac, salt, akawi cheese and olive oil. Mix all together and leave aside.

Cut the dough to form three or four balls.

Roll each of them on a soft surface which is greased with olive oil using a rolling pin until you make a paper-thin sheet of dough. Another option is to use your hands to punch down the dough until it becomes so thin that you can punch it no more! (don’t worry if the dough ends up with some holes)

Add a pinch of the stuffing mix and fold two sides of the dough to the middle. Add another pinch of the mix and fold the dough again. Keep adding the mix and folding the dough until you can’t fold it further. Leave the balls for 10 minutes to rest. Once rested, place the dough on an oven tray greased with olive oil and flatten the dough with your hands.

Place the tray in a preheated oven of 180 degrees celsius for about 10 minutes or until they become slightly brown or golden. Flip them and leave for another 5 minutes.

TIP: Fatayer Zaatar is best served hot and typically comes with fresh yogurt or tea.