The idea came to us after a comment arrived in this blog’s inbox last week. An unknown reader asked for the recipe of the sesame crusted bread I wrote about in a post in January. I had an idea about the main ingredients, but as for an exact recipe, I was out of luck. Tarek made some calls home, but getting our hands on a recipe wasn’t as simple as we thought it might be. None of our family members seemed to know the secret recipe of the Jerusalem bakers. But Tarek was determined, and so he looked through a slew of Arabic food websites.
After finding 10 or so different recipes for the bread, we choose one that sounded on target. Below is the recipe that we went with. It is downright the best bread that I’ve ever seen come out of a standard home oven, and probably the best bread we’ve eaten in a while. Both the crust and the inside is soft, fluffy and moist. It is lightly sweet and the sesame crust adds a nice touch.
With that said, it isn’t exactly the same as the bread in Jerusalem, which is a tad bit sweeter, a little drier and lighter. On the next go around, we plan on adding a touch more sugar or perhaps some honey to the dough. We will try baking it in a professional oven, which should change the texture significantly.
Sesame Crusted Bread Rings of Jerusalem
Ka’ak bil Simsim (كعك بالسمسم)
1 tablespoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1/2 kilo (1.1 lbs) all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with a few pinches of sugar
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 f.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, place the yeast, warm water and sugar. Mix gently. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast foams doubles in size.
3. Sift the flour. Add the salt to the flour.
4. Once the yeast is ready, add the vegetable oil and milk to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed.
5. Slowly, add the flour one spoonful at a time, while the mixer is on low. Mix until all flour is incorporated, then turn off the mixer immediately. Do not overwork the dough.
6. Dust your hands with flour, and remove the dough from the mixing bowl. It will be very sticky, but do your best to form it into a ball and move it to a clean, flour-lined bowl. Surely, pieces of the dough will have stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl. Remove them from the mixing bowl, and add to the top of the dough ball.
7. Cover the dough-filled bowl with a towel and let sit in a warm spot for 30-40 minutes.
8. The dough will double in size. Punch it down and remove it from the bowl. It’s consistency will have softened and it won’t be as sticky. Sprinkle flour on a working surface. Place the dough over the flour. Knead the dough for 5 minutes.
9. Then, cut the dough in half. Roll out each piece into a long log and form into a ring. See picture below.
10. Brush the rings with egg wash on all sides and roll in sesame seeds.
11. Place the rings on separate sheet pans. Put an oven-proof pot of boiling water in the oven, underneath the bread. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the bread turns a light brown color.
12. Remove and place on racks. Devour one loaf while piping hot, save the other loaf for sandwiches.