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Savory Babka with Crispy Shallots, Za'atar, and Flake Sea Salt

Slofoodgroup Team March 17, 2021

A New, Savory Twist on Classic Babka

Za’atar is maybe one of the best known spice mixes used in the Middle East. There is also a lesser renowned herb with the same name. The culinary plant, za'atar, is related to rosemary and thyme and is frequently used in the same spice mix, though often replaced with oregano.

Most common za’atar recipes will include a mix of
dried oregano, thyme, and/or marjoram, with sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt. This spice mix is wonderful and incredibly versatile,  as it brings woodsy and floral notes from the herbs, tanginess and acidity from the sumac, and nuttiness and richness from the sesame seeds. Some recipes include salt, while in others, it is omitted. We strongly recommend adding it to the herb mix, unless you are using it in a dish that already has a fare amount of salt.  Flake sea salt is wonderful in this spice mix and it brings the crunch and saltiness the spice mix needs.

 Za'atar is a phenomenal flavoring agent for Babka, a yeast bread popularized by Jewish communities in Israel, Poland, and Ukraine. Babka traditionally contains a sweet filling and the dough is braided prior to baking. We don't think this phenomenal yeast bread should be limited by sweet ingredients, though, so we developed a mouth-watering filling for this savory application!

Babka Bread with Savory Filling and Shallot, Lemon, Dijon, and Za'atar Flavored Oil

Serves: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 20‘

Cooking Time: 30’

Additional Time: 30-45’ 


For the poolish:

  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp lukewarm water

For the dough:

  • 500 grams/4 cups white all purpose flour
  • 250 grams/1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the filling:

  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp za'atar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp flake sea salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Zest of one small lemon


  1. To a small bowl, add the ingredients for the poolish and mix well; cover loosely and allow to double in size for 5-7 minutes;
  2. To a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the dough and the poolish mixture; using a mixer, knead with the dough hook attached for 10 minutes or until the dough is soft, elastic, and doesn’t stick to the bowl; 
  3. Allow to proof in a warm, draft-free environment for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size;
  4. Meanwhile, fry the shallots in ¼ cup vegetable oil over medium-low heat until golden and crispy; remove and set on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil;
  5. To a bowl, combine the olive oil, za'atar, the leftover vegetable oil (now infused with shallots), mustard, lemon zest and salt; mix well and set aside;
  6. Preheat oven to 200°C/ 390°F;
  7. Poke the air bubbles from the dough and roll flat to a clean and lightly floured surface;
  8. Spread the olive oil and za’atar mixture evenly; sprinkle the crispy shallots on top and roll tightly;
  9. Cut the roll in half, lengthwise and braid the two halves;
  10. Add the babka to a greased tin loaf, cover with a wet towel and allow to proof for 20 minutes;
  11. Bake babka at 200°C/ 390°F for 30 minutes; Once done, brush with olive oil on top and sprinkle with flake sea salt.