Kaak – don’t you love getting a new handbag? (BBB June 2017)

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BBB kaak summary: recipe for Kaak (Lebanese Purse Bread); adjusting yeast amounts; fooling with flours; using dates as a substitution for egg-wash; another use for orange blossom water; baking on the barbecue; a Bread Baking Babes project;

Bread Baking Babes (BBB June 2017: Kaak)

BBB kaak
Kaak! Kaak!
Kaak!! Kaak!!

It sounds like violent coughing, doesn’t it? Or tropical birds screeching. But don’t let the sound of this bread’s name fool you.

Trust me, kaak is nothing at all like that. It looks great. It tastes great. And it’s ridiculously easy to make!

My first and last day in Beirut is always the same: I have to get some kaak. Kaak is the street bread that Beirutis love more than anything, it is our pretzel, our simit, our croissant; you get my point. This time, my new friend, Hind, took me to a bakery in Basta (the neighborhood in Beirut that no tourist will ever venture in unaccompanied); I was in heaven! […] Kaak is delivered to all the cart vendors throughout the city. They dangle them on a rail in their chariot, covered in plastic for protection. You buy it and they will fill it with a choice of zaatar or picon cheese (a cheese spread similar to cream cheese). I always want mine with zaatar, of course!
– Joumana Accad, Taste of Beirut | Kaak (street bread)
They swing from rods in the rolling street carts, looking like purses except they’re coated with sesame seeds. Take a closer look and you see that they are ka’ak, a Middle Eastern flatbread, popular in Lebanon, often eaten as breakfast or for a snack. From the carts, you can get ka’ak filled with za’atar or smeared with cheese or hummus.
-Gin, Gin’s Kitchen | Ka’ak – Middle Eastern Flatbread
Sesame Galettes, in one form or another are a street staple through the eastern Mediterranean […] 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. In Tripoli and Syria the galettes are shaped into flat disks and are often sold filled halloumi cheese seasoned with sumac.
-Anissa Helou, Turkish Sesame Galettes Simit, Mediterranean Street Food, p116

I often make Anissa Helou’s Koulouria (Greek Sesame Galettes) on p.118 of her cookbook “Mediterranean Street Food (read more here: sesame twisted rings), especially in the summer. They’re perfect for the barbecue!

So I was thrilled to try this slightly different version of the bread that Karen (Bake My Day) chose for this month’s BBB project. I especially liked that the BBB recipe seems more straight-forward than Helou’s.

Here’s how Kaak making went:

BBB Ka’ak diary:

3 May 2017, 10:21 Great choice!! I love that the bread looks like hanging purses.

13:44 I have now read a little more closely and see the high high high hydration in this recipe. It looks like the Croc all over again!! Run for the hills! Run for the Hills! …I think I might have to be away in June. :lalala:

When I saw the handbag aspect, I was certain that I’d read about this bread before. I looked at the bread cookbooks on our shelf. Yup. I was right!

Fresh ka’kat can be found on busy street corners, in markets, and at bus stands all the way from Istanbul to Cairo. They are nourishing, inexpensive, tasty and easy to eat on the run–everything an ideal street food needs to be. There are dozens of regional varieties of ka’kat: Some are sweet, some savory; some ar large rings, while others are made very smalll; some are dense and chewy, while others are crisp on the outside and soft and light inside. This particular version [of ka’kat] is slightly sweet, aromatic with the addition of mahleb—the ground-up kernels of a species of black cherry that grows in the Eastern Mediterraneann—and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Atop a hill we stopped to look out over the old city and the West Bank. Within our view there was so much history, and much to think about. 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 witha 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, witha strong breeze and a timeless view.
-Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford, Savory Sesame Bread Rings ka’kat * Israel, Flatbreads and Flavors, p230, 209

Oooh, good idea to add mahleb!

9 June 2017, 00:33 I’m looking at the recipe and have decided to actually read it.

1 tbs instant dry yeast […]
135 gr whole wheat flour **
490 gr all purpose flour […]
[R]oll each ball into a circle approx. 18cm / 7″ diam., about 1.1/2 cm / 1/2 inch thick. Place the shaped breads on lined baking sheets, be careful not to stretch the dough. Use a large cookie cutter to cut out a circle near the top to form the “handle”
-BBB kaak recipe

Now I have three questions:

  1. Can that really be 1 Tbsp dry yeast? As in 12g? That’s a lot, isn’t it?
  2. How many purses does this make? About… (Six? Seven?? Large?? Small??)
  3. What does one do with the circles of dough that were cut out to form the handles?

10 June 2017, 10:12 We’ve decided to have the kaak tonight. And because it’s quite warm, we’ll bake them on the barbecue.

After waffling about how many handbags this recipe might make and whether to make a full or half recipe, I told T how much flour was in a full recipe. Without skipping a beat, he declared, “make half the recipe! We don’t have room in the freezer.”

(How is it that he just knows? And that he’s never wrong??)

So, half a recipe it was. And I hardly made any changes – {cough} if you call using honey instead of sugar, reducing the yeast drastically, substituting flax seed and wheat germ for some of the flour, and using yoghurt instead of buttermilk.

yoghurt Because I HAD to use our yoghurt. Not that there’s anything wrong with buttermilk, but T has been making the most brilliant yoghurt these days. It’s beautifully creamy and has just the right amount of sourness.

See? …hardly any changes! :lalala:

I put the kneaded dough into the oven without even the light turned on and headed out the door, knowing I wouldn’t be back for several hours.

16:27 Just before heading home an hour ago, I phoned T and asked how the bread dough was looking. He said that it had risen by about half and that he’d turned the light on.


17:41 The dough is ready to shape. Yay. (I love it when I guess right about how quickly dough will rise.)

BBB kaak Armed with Heghineh’s delightful YouTube video shaping instructions that require zero rolling pins and cookie cutters, shaping was a breeze!

Some [people] will just roll out into a circle shape and cut out the part to make it look as a purse, to have a hole in the middle, but that way you will end up with some extra dough, which you can of course use, but this way that I like shaping [kaak], it’s… uh… you will not have any left over dough and it’s so easy to shape”
– Heghineh, YouTube: Kaak Bread Recipe – Lebanese Handbag Purse Bread – Heghineh Cooking Show (shaping starts at around 6:30 on the video)
Roll the dough into log about 22″-23″ long, as you roll go thinner on the ends. Let the center thicker than the ends. Stick the ends together and using your fingers or a rolling pin make the middle part wider and flatter, shaping it as a handbag
– Heghineh, heghineh.com, Kaak Bread Recipe – Purse Bread

orange blossom water 18:57 I boiled a few dates in water and added a little orange blossom water and butter before whirring it together. And so, I’m going to continue on my wayward path, and instead of brushing with egg, I will brush with date water before sprinkling the bread liberally with sesame seeds.

19:05 Oh! I see that Karen is way ahead of me. Perhaps I’m not being wayward at all.

[I brushed] the bread with a wash of Pekmez, a fruit syrup made from grapes or dates. Mine was pomegranate and I mixed it with a little water, then brushed it on and sprinkled sesame seeds on. This is what they do with the simit. 
-Karen, in an email message to the BBB about making kaak

19:52 We fired up the barbecue and baked the handbags two at a time. I think maybe we didn’t let the barbecue get hot enough – there wasn’t the same really dramatic oven rise that we often get in the barbecue.

But the bread looks great!

kaakBBB kaakBBB kaakBBB kaak
ready for baking, sesame seeds on bread, baking 2 at a time, some over-rose a little

(Ooops. I forgot to make za’tar. Next time….)

Wow! How gorgeous is that?

BBB kaak

Thank you, Karen! We love this bread, easily as much as the sesame rings!

Here is the BBB June 2017 Kaak recipe we were given. And here is what I did to it by making only half the recipe:

BBB Kaak (Lebanese Purse Bread)
based on recipes at The old Curiosity Shop, Gin’s Kitchen, Heghineh Cooking Show on YouTube)

makes four “handbags”


  • 80gm plain yoghurt (the BBB recipe calls for buttermilk)
  • 160gm water at body temperature ¹
  • 1 Tbsp (13.5gm) olive oil
  • 10gm (1 tsp) runny honey ²
  • 2gm (0.5 tsp) active dry yeast ³
  • flour 4
       » 68gm whole wheat flour
       » 200gm all purpose flour, (plus 1/2 cup more because the dough was so wet)
       » 25gm wheat germ
       » 20gm flax seed, finely ground
  • 6gm salt


  • Date Sludge 5
       » some water
       » handful dates
       » splash orange blossom water
       » pat of butter
  • 2-4 Tbsp (18-36gm) sesame seeds
  1. in the morning of later in the same day you plan to bake the bread: spoon yoghurt into a largish mixing bowl. Pour body-temperature water (do the baby bottle test on the inside of your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot), honey and olive oil overtop. Whisk in yeast.
  2. Dump in flours, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, and salt (Please do measure your salt by weight rather than by volume. Various kinds of salt have different grades of coarseness…. For more information about measuring salt, please see Salt is salt, right?) Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together.
  3. kneading: Using one hand to turn the bowl and the other to dig down to the bottom to lift the dough up to the top, turn, fold, turn, fold, etc. the dough until it is smoothish and no longer looking like porridge. As you knead, resist the temptation to add more flour. Of course, you might find that the mixture is just too too wet and sloppy. So go ahead, do as I did and dump in another handful of all-purpose flour. Knead it in and be relieved that the mess has begun to look like dough.
  4. Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise until almost completely doubled. If your kitchen is normal, put it on the counter in a non-drafty area. If it’s cold, put the dough into the oven with only the light turned on. If it’s really cold, put a bowl filled with hot water into the oven to cosy up to the rising (you hope) dough. Feel free to do a few folds and turns as the dough is rising.
  5. date sludge: Chop pitted dates in quarters to make sure there are indeed no pits. Put them into a little pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add a splash of orange blossom water and a pat of salted butter. Purée the mixture, and set aside.
  6. shaping: About an hour or so before you will be baking the bread, turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Cut it evenly into four pieces. Roll each piece into a log that is quite fat in the middle and tapered at the ends. Pull the ends together to form a ring and place it on a parchment papered cookie sheet. Use your fingertips to pull out the wider part of the ring so it looks like a handbag. For four rings, you’ll need two cookie sheets. Once all the “handbags” are shaped, cover them with a tea towel, followed by a large plastic grocery bag and put them into the oven, with only the light turned on, to rise until almost double.
  7. baking: Turn the barbecue to hot.
    • Just before baking the bread, gently brush date sludge all over the bag parts of the shaped bread, leaving the handles bare. Be generous with the date sludge. Liberally scatter sesame seeds overtop. Cover one of the trays with the teatowel and leave on the counter. Take the other tray out to the barbecue.
    • BBQ: Place one tray over direct heat. Close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 8 minutes, rotating the tray once to account for uneven heat in the barbecue. Then move the tray over to cook with indirect heat (lid down again) until the “handbags” are done (about another 8 minutes). While the bread is baking, you may have to turn the bread over to prevent it from burning on the bottom. (Please note that our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side.) Watch for hotspots and move the bread around to keep it from burning on one side. When the first two kaak are done, hang them on the handle of a wooden spoon balanced over a basket and repeat the baking process with the other tray.
    • Conventional Oven: Of course, kaak can be baked in a conventional oven too. Gin (Gin’s Kitchen) writes: “Bake bread at 400º F: bake until light brown and puffy, about 10-12 minutes. Rotate sheets top to bottom and front to back if baking more than one sheet at a time.
  8. Allow the bread to cool a little, hanging it on the handle of a wooden spoon balanced over a basket.

This bread is best served on the same day it is baked. Serve with olive oil, or creamy cheese and honey, or za’tar, if you remembered to make it.


1.) yoghurt and water The full BBB recipe calls for “235 gr. [~1cup] (butter) milk” and “245 gr water”. Because I was using full-fat yoghurt instead of buttermilk, for half the recipe, I used 80gm yoghurt and 160gm water. As usual, I did NOT use water from the hot water tap; instead I heated cold water in the kettle until it was body temperature.

2.) honey The full BBB recipe calls for “1 ½ tbs sugar”. This seemed excessive to me so I reduced it. And then it seemed excessive to use white sugar. So I switched to unpasteurized honey.

3.) yeast The full BBB recipe calls for “1 tbs [12gm] instant dry yeast, if using active dry yeast, be sure to activate in warm water”. Wow, that’s a lot of yeast. I knew I was leaving the house for several hours after mixing the dough, so I significantly reduced the amount of yeast, using just 2gm for half the recipe.

4.) flour The full BBB recipe calls for “135 gr whole wheat flour ** [1cup+2Tbsp]” and “490 gr all purpose flour, you may need a little more, but don’t add too much flour ** [scant 4 cups]” After reading “Cooked” by Michael Pollan, and noting that our flour never seems to go bad, I have decided to always add at least a little bit of wheat germ that we now always have on hand in the freezer.
When millers mill wheat, they scrupulously sheer off the most nutritious parts of the seed—the coat of bran and the embryo, or germ, that it protects—and sell that off, retaining the least nourishing part to feed us. […] To leave the germ in the flour would literally gum up the works, I was told by an experienced miller by the name of Joe Vanderliet. This is why it is always removed at the beginning of the milling process, even when making “whole” wheat flour. […] Vanderliet claims that many large mills, including ones he used to work for, simply leave the germ out of their “whole-grain” flour “because it’s just too much trouble”—a serious charge, but a difficult one to prove.

While I was mixing the dough, I also decided to add a little flaxseed, mostly because I found it right next to the wheatgerm in the freezer, and thought it would be a good idea to throw some in.

5.) Date Sludge The full BBB recipe calls for “1 egg for egg wash”. But I hate to waste an egg. Usually I use milk or cream instead, but I suddenly thought it would be fun to make date sludge. So I did….


We. LOVE. This. Bread.

And, contrary to various cautions, it is just as delicious the following day, with coffee and marmalade.

BBB kaak

Rats! I completely forgot about trying it with haloumi and sumac! I also completely forgot about adding mahleb. …next time! Because there will definitely be a next time – several next times, I suspect.

Thank you, Karen!

Bread Baking Babes Bread Baking Babes: Kaak Bread (June 2017)

Karen, is our host for the June 2017 Bread Baking Babes‘ project. She wrote:

Ladies, got your handbags ready? I’ve got you covered with this hand-bag shaped bread. So easy to take your lunch with you don’t you think?
– Karen, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make kaak too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the bread in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 June 2017. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ June 2017 bread.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I would never have thought of adding orange blossom water to the dates if it hadn’t been for learning about it when testing recipes for Jamie and Ilva’s cookbook that comes out this August:

Orange Appeal: Savory and Sweet Orange Appeal: Savory and Sweet
by Jamie Schler with photos by Ilva Beretta,
(Gibbs Smith Publishing)


black cat
Oh Boy!! A New Box!


This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes on by .

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10 responses to “Kaak – don’t you love getting a new handbag? (BBB June 2017)

  1. Karen

    How fun that you baked it in the barbecue! I’ve made pizza on it, but I need to give bread a try. Love all of your changes and love the kitty!

  2. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Marvelous idea the dates and orange blossom water! I know that would be perfect. Gorgeous color.
    Some things guys just know, other things we just know.
    I guess I don’t see yogurt as a change from buttermilk and we always add flax that’s not a change …

  3. Lien

    Yes we have to make them again too, they were good! Wonderful that they bake in the BBQ so well. I have to check out that Helou recipe now… thanks for the tip!

  4. katiezel

    I have an urge to slice the center part way through, stuff it with some ham and cheese, hang it from my handlebars and go for a leisurely bike ride…. Hmmmmm

  5. Elizabeth Post author

    Thank you all!

    Yes indeed! We almost always bake bread in the barbecue in the summer, Kelly.

    Karen, do try baking things other than pizza on the barbecue. It’s so great to NOT have to heat up the kitchen when it’s hot outside.

    Tanna, if our yoghurt were more liquid, I’d agree. But as it is, it’s almost like adding cheese. Good to know that adding flax isn’t considered to be a change.

    Yes, Lien, do try Helou’s sesame rings. They’re easily as delicious as kaak.

    I was so pleased with myself for making the date sludge, Cathy. (There was some leftover the next day and it was delicious on granola with yoghurt. :-) )

    What a great idea Katie!! But why stop at one kaak hanging from the bicycle handlebars? A whole picnic could be fit on, don’t you think?

  6. Baking Soda

    Absolutely spot on on the shaping, will do that next time, so much easier! And I;ll go with the tropical birds screeching their Kaak Ka’ak! Also Totally stealing your orange blossom date water ánd the yoghurt instead of buttermilk. Phew! Great stuff is being baked!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Great stuff, indeed, Karen! We couldn’t have done it without you though. I never would have attempted making the handbags if you hadn’t suggested it.


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