When you have quite a commute ahead and aren’t much of a breakfast person, you end up buying something from a street vendor and one of the most commonly found pastries is the simit – a ring of dough usually sprinkled with sesame, or my personal favorite, sunflower seeds.
When you’re riding the ferry on the Bosporus nibbling a simit as the fresh air greets you ... Well, nothing makes Istanbul’s commute more desirable. But since I moved out of the bustling city (best decision ever), the only thing I miss before work is that round pastry that has been sold for centuries in Turkey. While some bakeries have my beloved sunflower seed kind not all of them do, so here is a recipe to try to bring that authentic simit to your breakfast table as well.
In a bowl put a bit of the flour and make a small indentation where you add the sugar, yeast and a bit of the water and mix that middle part until the yeast has dissolved. Let that rest for a couple of minutes. This will activate the yeast, it will get all bubbly. After about 10-15 minutes, add the remaining water, milk, oil and salt in as well and start working the dough. Gradually add in the flour until you get a non-sticking dough. This might not require all the flour that has been indicated here. Cover the bowl with the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for at least half an hour to an hour to give it a chance to rise.
Once that time has passed, take chunks of the dough, roll it fairly long and connect the ends to form a ring. Gently rolling the ends together will make it hold together better. If you feel especially fancy, you can twirl the dough before connecting them making them look more like the iconic simit. Now dunk the dough in a bit of water and press on either sesame or sunflower seeds or both! Bake these at 180 degrees Celsius (355 Fahrenheit) until they are golden brown. Enjoy them warm!
Many street vendors sell their simit with cream cheese and some expand their repertoire with different kinds of spreads such as olive paste or chocolate spreads. Having slices of cheese or salami are fun additions as well that can be introduced to the mix.
When speaking of simit, there is also a second kind that is sold on Islamic holy nights, called Kandil. On these days, rather crunchy tiny simits – called Kandil Simidi – are gifted to neighbors and some employers. They are small, round and eaten like crackers.
There are two different kinds: One is entirely covered in sesame while the other is lightly sprinkled with nigella or a smaller amount of sesame. What makes this special though is the addition of mahleb, which is a spice made out of a special kind of cherry, giving it a distinct flavor. But if you do not have the spice on hand you can of course skip it. This recipe will yield about 35 to 40 of the small simits so if that is too much for your taste, you can always half the amounts.
Separate the egg white from the egg yolk and set the whites aside for later. In a bowl, add the egg yolk, oil, room temperature butter, yogurt, vinegar, salt and sugar and give it a good mix. Add the mahleb, baking powder and gradually add the flour in there and start kneading the dough. You might not need all of the flour here either.
Once the dough is not sticky anymore, grab walnut-sized pieces of the dough and roll it out, forming them into rings. Whisk the egg white that has been set aside and cover the simit with it, then dunk them in the sesame. Place the small simit on a baking tray and bake them for about 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (355 Fahrenheit). Let it cool off and enjoy with a nice glass of tea!