Turkish Simit

I first heard about simit years ago when I was binging The Chef’s Line on Netflix. The show is a cooking competition between home cooks and the team from a restaurant, and each week centers around a different restaurant and their style of cuisine. There was a Turkish week where I just learned a lot about Turkish food, with simit being one of the menu items that they had to cook. The visual might give it away, but simits are essentially a Turkish bagel. They are made from a yeasted bread dough that is rolled into a braided ring, and coated in molasses and toasted sesame seeds. Unlike a bagel, where the dough is boiled, that molasses and sesame seed coating gives the simit a nice hearty crunch. Simit are usually served as a street food in Turkey, usually with cucumbers, feta cheese, tomatoes, olives, and Turkish tea, or with butter, cream, and jams in more modern interpretations(which are all a bunch of things I would happily eat).

For the dough itself, like I mentioned already, it is a relatively simple yeast-leavened bread dough. It is important to use yeast instead of baking soda or powder in this dough, as it creates that pillowy interior that is so important to contrast the crunchy exterior. Traditionally, grape molasses is used to coat the simit with, but pomegranate or regular molasses would work too. Pomegranate molasses is a bit more sour, but I actually prefer that, since I like my simit in more savory applications. I also use sumac, salt, and olive oil to season my cucumbers and tomatoes with, since I just love the citrusy flavor of it, just to brighten up the garnishes with. Sumac is usually used in Mediterranean food anyways, so it is not too far of a stretch to be using it here, especially in just the garnish as a seasoning!

Makes 8 simit:
For the simit dough:
1 packet active-dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, in 3 parts
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix the yeast with 1 part water, salt, and sugar. Allow that to sit for 10 minutes. In a bowl, combine all of your ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes, or until it forms a smooth and elastic dough. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover in cling wrap. Rest at room temperature for 1 hour, then chill down in the refrigerator for another 30-45 minutes.

For the glaze:
3 tbsp pomegranate or grape molasses
1 cup lukewarm water
a pinch of salt

Mix together until combined.

For assembly:
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
Proofed simit dough

Toast the sesame seeds on low heat, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Allow these to cool before using.

Divide the proofed simit dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece out to roughly a 4-inch long log. Braid two logs together. Take the ends and press them together to form a ring. Repeat with all of the remaining pieces until you have 8 rings. Refrigerate the dough for 5 minutes.

Dip the rings into the glaze and toss with the sesame seeds. Allow the rings to sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes on parchment lined sheet trays, putting 2 rings per tray.

After resting them, gently stretch the rings so that they are about 6 inches in diameter(the outermost portion, not the innermost). Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes.

To garnish:
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup feta cheese, cubed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Persian cucumbers
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
1/4 tsp sumac

Toss the tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with olive oil, sea salt, and sumac. Arrange the garnishes around the finished simit.

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