SIMIT – TURKISH SESAME BREAD

Ring shaped sesame simit is very common bread in Turkey, as well as in other Middle Eastern countries and the Balkans. It comes in larger and smaller sizes, and, also varies in crunchiness and chewiness, depending on the region. Some are softer, made with apple syrup and olive oil, and some are crisp and lean.

After having my first simit, I wanted, of course, to try my hand in it. I studied a lot of recipes – fortunately many Turkish women post in German cooking websites. Some of those descriptions were a bit too vague for a newbie (like Grandmother’s: “Take a handful of flour, and then put some eggs in”). They also varied greatly.

In the end I decided on a lean, crisp version, like the wonderful simit I got as a gift from a Turkish baker, when I admired her beautiful display at a Turkish bakery in Delmenhorst, Germany.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, working the dough with stretch and fold, plus a slow cold fermentation overnight, and the result was really nice – my husband and I loved the sesame crunch!

Braided, twisted or straight – Simits are good!

SIMIT – TURKISH SESAME BREAD (adapted from Merosh/kochbar.de)

500 g Italian 00 flour (or unbleached pastry flour)
4 g instant yeast
190 g water, lukewarm
125 g yogurt, lukewarm
7 g salt
19 g olive oil (optional –  I used it)

Topping:
1 egg white, mixed with 1 tbsp. water, for brushing
sesame seeds, for sprinkling

DAY 1:
Mix together yogurt and water, and stir in instant yeast, until dissolved. Add all other dough ingredients, and mix at low speed (or with wooden spoon) until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Knead at medium-low speed (or with hands) for 2 more minutes, adjusting with a little more water or flour, if needed. Dough should be supple and very tacky, bordering on sticky. Resume kneading for another 4 minutes. Dough should still be tacky.

Transfer to an oiled work surface. With oiled hands, gently extend into a rough square. Stretch and fold back and front side like a business envelope, then, also left and right side.

Pick up dough package, tuck sides under to form a ball, and place, seam-side down, into an oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Repeat these stretches and folds 3 more times, at 10 minute intervals. After last fold, place dough into oiled container with lid, and refrigerate overnight.

DAY 2:
Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

First shape dough pieces into rolls, then roll into strands

Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. First shape into rolls, then, with your hands, roll into 12-14″/30-35 cm strands (if dough resists, let relax for 5 minutes, before continuing).

Shape strands into rings, twisting them if you like, pressing ends together to seal. (Or, alternatively, braid two longer strands, and then shape into a ring.) Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Place simits on parchment lined baking sheet

Preheat oven to 437ºF/225º C, including steam pan.

Brush dough rings with egg white, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Spray with oil spray, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for ca. 1 hour, or until they have grown to almost double in size.

Bake simits for 7 minutes, steaming with 1 cup boiling water. Rotate baking sheet 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and continue baking for another 8 minutes, or until breads are golden brown.

Let breads cool on wire rack.

It is necessary to use a low protein flour, like the German type 450 or Italian 00. American unbleached pastry flour would be a good substitute – all-purpose flour has too much gluten. 

Beautiful, appetizing display at a Turkish bakery in Delmenhorst/Germany

Post updated: 8/16/14

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