Simit is a bread that is found usually sold in red carts on the streets of towns and cities throughout Turkey. It's simply delicious and the choice of most Turks who seem to enjoy it with some cheese and çay.
While I had seen the simit carts on my first trip to Istanbul, I didn't manage a taste. This trip, I made sure to try it. My first initiation was on a ferry ride to a market near Istanbul. Dilara, my host, had our driver purchase some as we waited for the boat. Finally boarding, Dilara inspected the simit, bit into it with a piece of cheese, and her face dropped. According to her it was stale. Later, we had a chance to try it again. Much better. How to describe it? Well, it's a cross between several different well known and similarly crafted breads; bagels, pretzels, taralli. In otherwords, a hybrid of all these cousins.But with simit, they are plated, dipped in a solution of molasses (pekmez) and water, then coated with sesame seeds and baked.
I can't seem to find a baker back home in New York City who makes a decent simit. So I took a formula adapted from the book, Classic Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Başan. It's a great reference book, which everyone online seems to have interpreted or just copied. Anyway, I felt souring or fermenting this dough with levain would kick it up a bit! Depending on how fresh it is, simit can be airy, chewy, or stale, in which case it really sucks! The best I had was when my friend Gökhan Sökmen, Abracadabra's baker extraordinaire, made g me breakfast, preparing a simit with tomato and melted cheese – a delicious meal.
Anyway I feel it's time to start introducing some of these terrific breads so you can try and enjoy or even close your eyes while chewing on the sesame seed crusted simit and think of Turkey, like I often do.
Simit au levain
225 g molasses (I used carob pekmez)
680 sesame seeds
Mix flour, levain, salt and water. Knead hand, or mixer, until the dough is very smooth and resilient.
Put the dough in a oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 2 hours.
Lightly degas the dough place on a lightly floured work surface, divide into equal pieces,(mine were 50 grams each.) Roll each piece into a loose ball
and let rest under a slightly damp towel about 30 minutes.
Roll each ball into a 14 inch/ 35 centimeter long rope. Hold down one end of
the rope with one hand while twisting it with the other. Then form this twisted
rope into ring, pressing and rolling the overlapping ends together on the work surface
with one hand to seal. Place on a greased baking sheet and let rest 1 hour or check with the finger and poke your simit. If your indentation doesn't spring back your about there!
Dissolve the molasses in 225g water in a bowl. Put the sesame
seeds on a flat plate or sheet pan and set it next to the molasses water dip. Dip each simit in molasses water solution first, then in the sesame seeds, making sure the ˇ˝simitˇ˝ is
completely and thickly coated with the seeds on all sides. Put it back on the baking
sheet and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit or 287 Celsius 30 minutes before baking. Put
a few cups of water in an ovenproof pan and place it in the oven, or spray with a mister.
Take each ring and rotate it gently through your hands, enlarging
it into a 7 inch/ 17 centimeter circle. Place the rings back on the baking sheet and let rest for
15 minutes or until well puffed.
Bake about 15-20 minutes until rich golden brown in color.
They are their best eaten fresh out of the oven.