This circular, sesame seed-coated bread has been baked in Istanbul since the 1500s. Today, similar versions are enjoyed from Greece to Bulgaria and Lebanon, with its size and texture (crunchy or chewy) varying from region to region. Traditionally eaten as a snack or as part of a breakfast spread, simit goes well with chunks of feta or tulum cheese, slices of cucumber, tomato, olives and basturma (air-dried, cured and spiced beef).
- 3 tsp instant dried yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 500 g (3⅓ cups) plain flour, plus extra, to dust
- 185 ml (¾ cup) pekmez (see Note)
- 300 g (2 cups) sesame seeds
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 20 minutes
Resting time 1 hour 25 minutes
Dissolve yeast in 60 ml warm water in a bowl. Stir in sugar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Stir in 310 ml warm water.
Combine flour and 1½ tsp salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir to form a coarse dough. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball, then place in a large greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.
Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Punch down dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide into 10 equal portions.
Combine pekmez and 80 ml water in a large bowl. Place sesame seeds on a large plate. Working with one dough portion at a time, use your hands to roll out dough to form a 55 cm-long rope. Fold rope in half until ends align, then lift off work surface and use your hands to twist dough to form a two-stranded rope. Return twist to work surface and join ends together to form a circle, pressing ends firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 10 twisted rings.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Dip each ring into pekmez mixture to coat, allow excess to drain off, then dip into sesame seeds, turning to coat. Transfer rings to prepared oven trays and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 20 minutes or until slightly puffed.
Bake for 17 minutes or until golden and cooked through, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Simit are best eaten the same day.
• Pekmez is a grape syrup available from Middle Eastern food shops and select delis.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29.