The other day, T announced that he was going to make mushroom soup with pistou from the Toronto Star’s Chef’s showcase. Naturally, I thought this was a brilliant idea.
To go with the soup, I immediately thought of quickly making the sesame rings we had just read about in “Flatbreads and Flavors”. And because we already had hazelnuts for making the pistou, I made the hazelnut spice mix that Duguid and Alford suggested to go with the rings.
Initially, I was thinking that the sesame rings would be virtually the same as the Kouloúria I made a couple of years ago from a recipe in Anissa Helou’s “Mediterranean Street Food” (another truly wonderful travelogue/cookbook). Anissa describes two other sesame covered breads as well.
Turkish Sesame Galettes [Simit] Sesame galettes in one form or another, are a street staple throughout the eastern Mediterranean, starting in Greece and continuing all the way down to Egypt. In Greece, Turkey, and Egypt they are shaped into rings, and in Greece they are made slightly sweet. In Lebanon they are shaped like handbags, and the vendor will tear the fat “bag” part open to sprinkle the inside with a little za’tar [a blend of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds]. In Tripoli and Syria the galettes are shaped into flat disk and are often sold filled with halloumi cheese seasoned with sumac.
-Anissa Helou, Mediterranean Street Food, Turkish Sesame Galettes, p. 116
[K]a’keh is the quintessential Lebanese street food. Vendors have them precariously strung on various structures which they fit on their bicycles and wheel along the corniche or regular streets. No one ever makes them at home […] I decided to use [the recipe for khobz al-sabah and] then shape into the handbag-like ka’keh.
-Anissa Helou, Anissa’s blog, ka’keh
On closer examination of the recipe for Kouloúria, there was a slight difference – not just in the shaping but in the ingredients. Without any added sugar or oil, Ka’kat were much sparer than Kouloúria – calling for just flour, yeast, salt and sesame seeds.
And so, Ka’kat called to me. I answered.
But oh my!! Why oh why didn’t I go a little further with my instincts? They say to use a quarter cup of fresh or dried thyme. That’s madness. Dried thyme is so much more pungeant than fresh!! Using dried thyme, I halved the amount called for and still the mixture is really too thymy.
We had the rings with the mushroom soup and hazelnut pistou. We have a new favourite soup! And bread!
We love these rings!
They’re really delicious with pistou, with butter, with olive oil. I tried the thyme mixture too. It’s too strong for the soup.
And yet. And yet. The next night, we made more pistou and had it with grilled porkchops. Then we tasted the combination of bread dipped in olive oil and then the thyme mixture. Oh my!! Not only do we have new favourite soup and bread, we now have a new favourite spice mix!
Now I can’t wait til summer when we can use fresh thyme from the garden and bake these rings on the barbecue!
Here’s what I did to make the rings and spice mix.
based on the recipe for Savory Sesame Bread Rings in “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1½ c lukewarm water
- ½ c wholewheat flour
- 3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
- 1 tsp Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- splash lemon juice, optional
- brown sesame seeds
- Pour water into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the yeast until it has dissolved.
- Add flours and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a rough dough.
- Lightly dust the board with flour and turn out the dough. Wash and dry the bowl.
- Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until it is soft, smooth and silky. Place the kneaded dough in the clean bowl (no need to oil the bowl!). Cover it with a plate and allow to rise in a no-draft spot until doubled.
- Fill a pie plate with cool water. Pour sesame seeds onto a large plate.
- Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 6 equal pieces. Use the flats of your hands to make ropes out of each piece. As each rope is formed, fasten the ends together but folding them over each other to form a ring. Then dip the ring into the water in the pie plate. Immediately place the wet ring on the sesame seeds to entirely cover one side of the ring and place it seed side up on a sheet of parchment paper. The rings can be ovals if you want. (I toyed with the idea of making the handbags that Anissa Helou described but then decided there wasn’t enough room in the oven.) Make sure there is plenty of space between each ring. (I used two sheets of parchment paper.) Cover the shaped rings with a clean tea towel, followed by plastic grocery bags and allow to rest at room temperature until they are not quite doubled.
- Put a baking stone in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F. When the oven is hot, transfer that rings (the parchment paper is fine in the oven) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden and hollow sounding.
Allow to cool a little on a rack. Serve warm with olive oil and optional spice blend.
based on the recipe for Hazelnut Spice Blend in “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
- 16 hazelnuts
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp dried thyme (use less!)
- 1 tsp coarse grey seasalt
- Heat a small cast-iron pan to medium heat. Add the hazelnuts and leave for a couple of minutes, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon. Remove the hazelnuts from the pan to the board to allow to cool. When they are cool enough to touch, rub them back and forth with the palms of your hands to remove the skins. Don’t worry if there is a little skin left. Finely chop the hazelnuts.
- Put peppercorns into a mortar and pound them until they are quite fine. Add the thyme, salt and hazelnuts. Pound til everything is blended.
Put the spice blend into a small bowl with a small spoon to serve it. Give each person a little saucer of olive oil. Dip bread into olive oil then into the spice mix.
Duguid and Alford say this keeps in a well-sealed glass jar for several weeks in the fridge.
1.) lemon juice: The lemon juice in the bread dough is entirely optional. I added it because the flour we have has no additives (other than the B vitamins required by Canadian law). There is a note on the bag suggesting to add lemon juice to help bread to rise.
2.) vital wheat gluten: Alford and Duguid call for strong bread flour. We only have all-purpose in the house, so I added a bit of vital wheat gluten to boost the gluten levels.
thyme Duguid and Alford call for 4 Tbsp of “fresh or dried thyme leaves”. If I had been thinking clearly at all, I would have remembered the little formula that in general,
1 Tbsp fresh herbs = 1 tsp dried herbs
Oh! By the way, the Chef’s showcase mushroom soup was brilliant! Stay tuned for the report.
A group of us are baking our circuitous way through the wonderful cookbook/travelogue “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This month, we moved to the Middle East to make sesame bread rings.
It was a blustery, though sunny, late January morning [in Jerusalem] […] Atop a hill we stopped to look out over the old city […] Nearby stood two Arabs selling large, wonderfully warm, soft, sesame-covered bread rings: ka’kat. With each ka’kat they served a little paper cone of ground thyme, into which we dipped our breads. We found a place nearby to sit outside with a cup of hot coffee. Then someone ran back for another ka’kat. And then another. And at last we’d eaten breakfast – in the sunshine, with a strong breeze and a timeless view.
-Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Savory Sesame Bread Rings ka’kat . Israel, “Flatbreads & Flavors”; p.209
I can’t believe just how wonderful this book is. And, as you can tell from the above, it’s not just for the many many delectable recipes.
Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:
Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB)
BYOB is a monthly event hosted by Heather (girlichef)
that encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.
Please take a look at other BTFFers’ sesame rings: