These bread rolls made with zaatar and cheese are amazingly fluffy and delicious. They are great for brunch, breakfast or a treat. Easy to make and store, you will love these impressive rolls!
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Zaatar Bread Rolls with Cheese
Bread rolls are a popular item at all meals and occasions. And they are especially sought after at breakfast on the weekends. But most of them tend to be the sweet bread rolls.
So I wanted to make delicious savory bread rolls for breakfast. And what would be a better combination to use for a filling than cheese and herbs. Everyone loves cheese! And for herbs, I chose zaatar, a Mediterranean condiment that is a blend of herbs, sesame seeds, sumac and salt.
The rolls are so flavorful and the cheese pull worked out perfectly well. I give you many options to suit your taste. And I also have some easy tricks to make them with store bought dough on busy days.
Now you can wake up to soft pillowy zaatar and cheese bread rolls bursting with flavor on a bright weekend morning.
Here are some useful notes about the ingredients.
- Zaatar: This is the star ingredient and is easily available. The herby and nutty flavors of this popular condiment pairs perfectly well with the salty cheese.
- Cheese: I use parmesan cheese or feta cheese as these are so flavorful. For amazing chess pull, I add some shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Some parmesan cheese brands can be loaded with fillers. So it is best to buy a block of cheese with Parmigiano – Reggiano imprinted on the rind and then grate it yourself. Alternatively it may be possible to buy grated versions that do not have any fillers. Be sure to check the labels.
- Flour: Bread flour is the best for making bread as it has higher protein content, but all purpose flour will work as well. Check below my tips for making the rolls healthier.
- Yeast: You can use fast-acting or active dry yeast. Follow the package instructions for the correct temperature to use for liquids.
- Sugar: It helps activate the yeast in the early steps.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This gives the rolls an earthy flavor that goes so well with zaatar.
- Red Pepper Flakes: I use Aleppo pepper flakes as they are milder yet flavorful.
- Salt: Helps moderate the rise of bread dough and adds flavor.
Two types of cheese that give a robust cheese flavor while being relatively lighter, are parmesan cheese and feta cheese. Compared to other cheese varieties, these are lower in fat and calories. A little goes a long way with these cheeses. They are salty, so be sure to balance the other ingredients in a recipe.
How To Make Cheesy Bread Rolls
**Brief overview here. Full recipe is at the end of post.
- Sprinkle dry yeast and some sugar on warm milk and let it rest until foamy. Combine most of the flour, remaining ingredients and warm milk. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Adding flour minimally, knead the dough until soft and slightly sticky. Let it rise in a warm dry place to double in bulk.
- Punch it down and roll it out into a rectangle. Top with olive oil, zaatar, red pepper flakes and cheeses.
- Starting from the longer end of the rectangle, roll up tight and pinch to seal the edges.
- Slice the dough log into 16 portions, arrange on a baking sheet and let it rise again until double in size. Brush with egg and sprinkle with seeds.
- Bake the bread rolls at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until nicely brown on top.
- Use flour as minimally as possible. Go slow to let the flour absorb the liquids, or you will end up using more flour and the rolls will not be moist. Check for gluten formation by doing the window pane test. If not, knead some more time.
- Give Time to Rise: It is a richer dough with ingredients known to slow the yeast. I let it rise in an oven that is not preheated. Placing a bowl of hot water on the oven floor, but away from the dough, gives it a warm environment.
- Use Thermometer: Be sure to check the temperature for your yeast and follow package instructions.
- Yeast baking is about touch and feel, and not so much about exact flour measurements. Temperature, humidity, climate, altitude, the packing of your flour and other factors can influence the amount of flour you will actually need for a recipe. So focus on the dough characteristics as you make it.
These fluffy bread rolls are best straight out of the oven. And they taste great even plain. But you could serve some cheese, butter and olives on the side. Add some fried or scrambled eggs to the menu.
You can make the dough one or two days ahead. Punch down the dough and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about an hour before baking. Check FAQs below for more on frozen bread dough.
How To Store
- Store baked rolls at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- Refrigerate the bread rolls for about a week.
- To freeze the rolls, allow the baked rolls to cool completely and pack in freezer-safe bags. It will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the rolls in the fridge overnight and reheat in oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes.
These delightful savory buns are inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean!
The bread rolls are not fluffy because you may have added too much flour and/or not allowed the rolls to rise optimally both in the first rise and the second rise. Give enough time for the rolls to rise and puff up.
Yes you can freeze the dough. Shape the yeast dough into rolls after the first rise, place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze. Pack the frozen dough rolls in bags and freeze. Thaw the rolls, allow to rise and double in bulk before baking.
Try about 2 pounds of store bought dough or packages of crescent sheets. Follow the package instructions for getting the dough ready. Then use the recipe below for filling, shaping and baking the rolls.
- To make these rolls healthier, try substituting ⅓ of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. If you are happy with the results, scale it up as per your preference.
- You may need to add a bit more water to make the dough or use less flour. Alternatively, you can try adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of whole wheat bran and flaxseeds meal.
- Active dry yeast would be better for these rolls. Longer fermentation and rise times, give the dough more time to develop, as the yeast activates more slowly.
- Use a dough enhancer such as vital wheat gluten, as we did for these soft wheat rolls. You can also try adding some of the tangzhong paste we used for the recipe. Just make sure to lower the amount of water used to make the final dough.
More Bread Recipes
- Persian Barbari Bread
- Tuna Melt Crescent Ring
- Sumac Chicken Onion Flatbread (Musakhan)
- Onion Rolls (Traditional and French Onion Style)
- Easy Skillet Flatbreads (No Yeast)
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Zaatar Bread Rolls With Cheese
- 1 egg whisked
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Warm the milk to 125° Fahrenheit and pour into stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Scatter the yeast over milk, followed by a sprinkle of sugar and let it rest in a warm dark place until the yeast foams up, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add 3½ cups bread flour, remaining sugar, extra virgin olive oil, eggs and salt. Combine at low speed to form a sticky mass. Let it rest for the flour to absorb the moisture and swell up, about 15 minutes. Tip: Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Gradually add 2 tablespoons of bread flour at a time, giving the flour time to absorb the liquids. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, soft and pull away from the bowl while the mixer is running.
- Tip: Go slow to let the flour absorb the liquids, or you will end up using more flour and the rolls will not be moist. Check for gluten formation by doing the window pane test. If not, knead some more time.
- Oil the dough and bowl lightly and cover with a moist towel or lid. Place it in a warm dry place and let it rise to double in bulk, about 1 hour or more, depending on climatic conditions. I let it rise in an oven that has not been preheated.
Shape The Rolls
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it into a smooth mass, tucking the loose ends underneath.
- Dust a clean and smooth surface with a light sprinkle of flour. Flatten the dough and roll it out into a 12 by 16-inch rectangle.
- Brush olive oil on the rolled out dough. Sprinkle zaatar, red pepper flakes and mozzarella cheese evenly on top of the oil layer. Then sprinkle parmesan cheese or feta cheese. Tip: To make 2 variations, slice the rolled dough into two halves. Then top one half with ½ cup parmesan cheese and the other half with ½ cup feta cheese.
- Starting from the longer end of the rectangle roll up tight. Make sure to pinch and seal the edges well. Using a blunt knife, lightly mark 16 portions of equal size.
- Slide a string of dental floss under the log of dough and position it with the first marking. Holding one end of the floss in each hand, pull the two ends across each other to cut through the dough quickly. Repeat with rest of the dough log, cutting it into a total of 16 pieces, along the markings.
- Place the rolls over a parchment paper lined baking sheet, spiral side down, spacing them apart by at least 2 inches to give enough room to rise. Allow the rolls to rise until double in size, about 30 minutes or more.
Topping and Bake
- Brush the whisked egg on top of rolls and sprinkle sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until nicely brown on top. Remove rolls from oven and serve immediately.
- Warm milk: 120 - 130 degrees F for rapid rise yeast and 110 degrees F for active dry yeast. Check yeast package instructions.
- Dough slices: To make easy and clean slices of the dough log, use unflavored and unwaxed dental floss.
- Important steps for success:
- Let the yeast foam up well before adding other ingredients.
- Allow the dough to rise in a warm environment. Give enough time to let the dough double in bulk in first rise and second rise.
- Placing the dough or rolls in an oven that has not been preheated and with a pan of hot water one level below will help the dough rise better. But don’t place the hot water too close to the dough.
- Storage: Wrap cooled rolls in paper towels and pack in plastic bags. You may store at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- Freeze: Pack the bread rolls in freezer-safe bags and freeze for 2 months. Thaw and warm it up in oven or toaster oven.
- Check blog post above for more tips, variations, and FAQs, etc.
More Brunch Breads
This post was first published on October 2016 and has been updated with improvements in pictures, tips, FAQs and additional enhancements.