Make Yourself Some Middle Eastern Simit Rings

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on February 20, 2015

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.comI like to buy dried garbanzo beans, rehydrate them overnight and then cook them up the next day in the pressure cooker. Most people simply don’t understand why I would ever do this when you can buy perfectly good garbanzo beans in a can. Don’t get me wrong, I will buy a few canned items like tomatoes and the occasional canned beans when I’m pressed for time, but I really prefer to cook my own beans for many reasons. The most important reason is that I save the excess liquid to make my homemade version of the delicious Middle Eastern bread called Simit.

No, I have not lost my mind… this little secret was shared with my mother by an Egyptian baker many years ago who made the best simit in the entire city of Cairo. It was moist and chewy like a bagel, just like simit should be. It had a nutty fragrance and a slight sweetness from the garbanzo whey – she still speaks about it today and says it was unlike any other simit she had ever tasted. Perhaps this was his family’s secret because I have never seen this done before in any bread recipe. Perhaps it was done out of necessity…this is something we will never know. What I do know is that the addition of the garbanzo whey also adds a moist, chewy quality that helps the bread stay fresh for days.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Simit is a common street food sold by street vendors in many countries like Turkey (gevrek), Greece (simiti or koulouri), Romania (covrig), Poland (obwarzanek) and the Ukraine and Russia (bublik). It is a large circle of dough that looks like an oversized bagel (about 6” wide) that is coated entirely with sesame seeds. Its history dates back to the 16th century and is most commonly found in the Middle East, where it is either served as is, with jam, and assortment of different spreads, cheese and or even filled with a piece of Middle Eastern knefe (kunafa).

The texture varies greatly from country to country –  from something soft and chewy like a bagel (Middle East) to something crispy on the outside and fluffy like cotton on the inside (Greece and Turkey). My favorite is the soft and chewy texture that is achieved by boiling then baking the dough, as you do when making bagels or large soft pretzels.

For those of you that follow the blog, you might remember a recipe I made a few years ago for Easter called marbled bread. The technique for making this bread was so unique in that you made a paste by cooking flour and water together and then adding this to the dough. The final result reminded me of the perfect texture of simit – moist and chewy – but without the messy and time consuming boiling then baking steps you need to complete to achieve that texture.

When I finally had a chance to make it, I was so impressed with the results. The final product yields a chewy texture that is almost indistinguishable from the boiled dough process. This recipe makes it possible for every home baker to enjoy this traditional, delicious bread the way it should be.

Homemade Middle Eastern Simit
1/3 cup flour
1 cup warm garbanzo whey
2 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup warm garbanzo whey
1 ½ teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus a little more for the bowl
1-2 cups sesame seeds

Place the 1/3 cup flour and the 1 cup of whey in a small pot and cook until the mixture has thickened, then set aside to cool. Put yeast, 1/4 cup whey, oil, sugar, 2 ½ cups of flour, salt and the thickened paste all together in the bowl of your stand mixer and combine until the dough comes together in a ball. Remember that the humidity in your environment has a lot to do with the amount of flour you will use. So if you need a little more water to achieve a soft, but firm dough, add just a few drops of water at a time until you have the desired result. Conversely, if the dough needs a little more flour, just add a little at a time until it pulls away from the sides and the bottom of the bowl.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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Beat the dough on the mixer until it has come together in a ball, about 5 minutes, then remove the dough and place it in a lightly greased bowl and allow it to double in size.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Once it is ready, gently deflate the dough and weigh it if you have a bakery scale. The reason I do this is to get an idea of what size I should portion out each simit. I have found that 6 ounce portions work really well, and from this recipe you should get about 7 or 8 pieces. Portion out all of the dough balls and roll it into a smooth ball.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Place your finger in the center to create a hole and begin to gently stretch out the dough to create a larger hole in the middle.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Once you are satisfied with the size of your simit, place them on a parchment lined tray and loosely cover them with plastic. Proof them for about 30 minutes, then gently brush them with some extra whey all over each roll to moisten them. If you don’t want to use the whey, just use some plain water.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Use a large tablespoon and spoon over a generous amount of sesame seeds to completely coat each of the simit rolls.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Place these into a preheated 350°F oven and bake until lightly golden brown on top, about 20-30 minutes. Make sure to rotate your tray half way through the baking period so that they all bake evenly.

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The Secret To Making Middle Eastern Simit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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