Saturday, August 18, 2007
When we were in Istanbul several years ago with our friends Fred and Betty, we discovered the snack bread called simit. Vendors carry baskets of them balanced on their heads while they wander through the streets. They're round and covered with sesame seeds, so I expected them to taste like bagels, but they're completely dissimilar to bagels. Although they're often referred to as Turkish croissants, they're not even yeast breads, and, in fact, they don't taste like croissants either, although they're fairly buttery.
I liked the ones I ate in Turkey and thought I would eventually try my hand at them, but they weren't at the top of my list. I didn't have anything else planned for today, though, and it seemed like a good day to give it a try. First I had to find a recipe that might be at least marginally authentic. I discarded all the ones that called for margarine because my kitchen is a margarine-free zone. I settled on a recipe from the U.K., which is closer to Turkey than we are, and had 150 grams of butter and no margarine, which must be better.
The dough is easy--mix flour, baking soda, and salt, and make a well in it. Then add beaten egg, melted butter, olive oil, and some water. Fold the ingredients together until you have a dough. Pinch off some fairly hefty pieces, roll them out into a snake, then turn them into a circle.
Brush them with more beaten egg, and then strew them with sesame seeds.
They bake for about 30 minutes. I've been using my convection oven lately, which I like a lot. For some reason, and I'm sure there is a reason, you can set it at a slightly lower heat than the recipe specifies, and it browns beautifully. I haven't burned anything yet that's been on the convection setting, although I'm sure I will eventually.
The simit were not how I remembered them, but my simit memory has probably dimmed over the past two years. They're almost like a pastry--buttery and crumbly. Spread thickly with jam, which is a good way to eat them, they're almost like eating a jam tart. A native of Turkey might scoff at my simit, but I thought they were very nice.