Simit is indeed the quintessential Turkish food; these sesame-encrusted bread rings must be the most popular snack at home. You can have simit for breakfast with a cup of cay (tea), sliced cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese and olives. You can enjoy them for a mid morning or afternoon snack with cheese or simply plain. Turks prefer savory accompaniments to simit, though I must say it is also lovely over some butter and jam. Their flavor and deeply satisfying texture are quite unlike anything else.
There are mobile simit stalls everywhere, especially in Istanbul (Istanbullus pride themselves as to have the genuine article). Recently, there are also Simit Houses opened all around the country, where you can enjoy simit with various fillings; cheese, olive paste, sucuk (Turkish spicy sausages made from dried cured beef). A magnificent revival of this all time favorite street food.
When I saw the Simit recipe at Leanne Kitchen’s delightful book Turkey; Recipes and tales from the road, I was over the moon. No one bothers making simit at home, as it is so widely available and so good. But living abroad, you don’t mind tackling to make it and would be surprised to see how easy to make them. As it is the school term break at the moment, the children and I had a go with the simit dough; blissfully satisfying and a delicious experience. Lovely, crunchy crust coated with golden sesame seeds, and nice soft dough in the middle. I took a bite, closed my eyes, and I was in Istanbul
This simit recipe is adapted by Leanne Kitchen’s version. I hope you enjoy them at least as much as we did:)
Prep time: 40 minutes (+1 hr for the dough to rise) Baking time:15-18 minutes
1 pinch sugar
15ml/3 teaspoons dried yeast
500gr (1lb 2oz/3 1/4 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
125ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) pekmez (molasses like syrup, see note)
235gr (8 1/2 oz 1 1/2 cups) sesame seeds
Combine the sugar and 60 ml (2fl oz/ 1/4 cup) lukewarm water in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the yeast. Set aside for about 8 minutes, or until foamy, then add another 310 ml (10 3/4 fl oz/ 1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the yeast mixture and stir to form a coarse dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F/Gas 7) and line a large size baking tray with baking paper. Knock back the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 10 even sized pieces. Combine the pekmez with 80 ml (2 1/2 fl oz/1/3cup) water in a large bowl. Place the sesame seeds on a large plate. Working with one piece of dough at a time, use your hands to roll the dough out to make 55 cm (22″) long ropes. Fold in half so two ends align, then lift off the board and use your hands to twist each rectangle into a two stranded “rope”. Place back on the work surface and join the ends together to make a circle, pressing the ends firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 10 rope circles.
Dip each ring, first into the pekmez mixture, immersing completely to coat, then drain well and toss in the sesame seeds, turning gently to coat. Transfer to the prepared tray and set aside at room temperature for about 20 minutes, to puff slightly. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until deep golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Simit are best eaten on the day of making but will keep, frozen in an airtight container, for up to 1 month.
Note: Pekmez is a mollasses-like syrup made from the juice and must of certain fruits, usually grapes or figs. It is available from Middle Eastern and Turkish grocery stores.