Za'atar Pretzels with Caramelized Onion Dip

These soft pretzels make a great snack, whether fresh and hot from the oven or pulled apart after a night on the town. The primary seasoning in both the pretzels and dip is za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend with dried thyme, oregano and toasted sesame seeds. Here, I’ve paired it with another Middle Eastern ingredient that’s a favorite of mine, labneh: a thick, creamy yogurt with a tangy flavor. Labneh and za’atar can be found at your favorite local international market; if you prefer, a thick Greek yogurt can be used in place of labneh.

Za’atar Pretzels with Caramelized Onion Dip

Yields | 12 pretzels |

Caramelized Onion Dip (Yields about 3 cups)

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Vidalia or Maui sweet onions, roughly chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups labneh or thick Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp za’atar

Za’atar Pretzels

  • 2¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup za’atar
  • flaky sea salt, to taste

| Preparation – Caramelized Onion Dip | In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions caramelize to medium brown. Add sherry and garlic and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until a deep caramel color. Remove from heat and let cool. In a small bowl, combine onions, labneh or Greek yogurt and za’atar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

| Preparation – Za’atar Pretzels | In small saucepan over medium heat with a candy thermometer inserted or attached, heat milk until approximately 95ºF. Remove from heat and add brown sugar, salt and yeast; stir to combine. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook attachment, add flour and slowly stream in warm milk mixture and olive oil. Let dough come together, then knead for 2 to 3 minutes; dough will be slightly sticky. Cover bowl with a dish towel and let rise until it doubles in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add water and baking soda and bring to boil until baking soda has dissolved. Let cool. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Divide dough ball into 12 equal-sized balls. On a clean work surface, roll each ball into a 15-inch-long rope. Cross ends over each other twice to form pretzel twist, making a U with the rope by twisting, pulling down, crossing and pressing tips of rope on opposite sides to form a pretzel shape. Line a plate with paper towels.

Carefully dip pretzels into baking soda-water mixture for approximately 1 minute each, then transfer to paper towel-lined plate to dry for about 30 seconds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all pretzels are arranged on baking sheet. Brush pretzels with egg wash, sprinkle with za’atar and aggressively season with salt. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm with caramelized onion dip.

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Amanda Elliott is the chef at Peachtree Catering in Columbia, Missouri, and authors the website rusticsupper.com, where she shares recipes centered on the idea of the communal table and embracing the heritage of food through travel.

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