We miss a lot of Turkish food here in America. In fact, that’s why I started to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and how I developed an enthusiasm for baking and cooking. Once someone is back from Turkey, we always want a detailed list of what he/she ate. So, recently one of my friends was back from Turkey and he was reporting his food diary. He was there for 5 days; first morning he had iskender (it is a kebab with thinly cut grilled lamb or beef with hot tomato sauce, a lot of butter, yogurt and pita bread- of course, normally very odd for breakfast-but hey, no time to lose), then he ate doner (again a kebab) for lunch. He said “We were eating all the time. When I went to bed I had simit with me, I was waking up in the middle of the night, taking a bite and then going back to sleep…” It sounds hilarous but true. This happens to us every time we visit home- we ate more than we would normally eat in months. Plus, we bring a lot of food with us too.
So, after talking to him, I was insanely craving for the simit. There is nothing extraordinary about these at all. Just salty doughs with sesame seeds. You may think that an American pretzel or a sesame seed bagel can do the trick. But no, it is not the same. You always miss the finest detail in taste.
As far as I know, nobody bakes these at home- pretzels we bake at home are different. These are only street foods. But I had to have these and I did!
Simit (Turkish Pretzel)
2 2/3 cups bread flour
1.5 teaspoon salt
active dry yeast (1/4 cups slightly warm water, 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar)
water (until dough comes together- I used 3/4 cups water)
grape molasses (Use maple syrup as a substitute)
Sesame seeds (Originally, you need dark brown sesame seeds sold as black sesame seeds. But if you cannot find you use regular white sesame seeds)
Add yeast and sugar to water and wait for 10 minutes for yeast to double in size and smell yeasty. If it does not form bubbles it means your yeast is old and you need to replace it. Form a well with flour and then add yeast and salt in it. Shape with your hand and add water until it comes together. You need to knead for about 10-15 minutes. We need gluten! Make 4 balls from the dough, shape spirals and then combine ends to form pretzels, shape to lose the joint points.
Combine 2 tablespoons of molasses(or maple syrup) with 2 tablespoons of water. Leave the pretzels in this syrup for 1-2 minutes. Then coat with sesame seeds and put the pretzels on a jelly roll pan (or a similar flat pan) and leave for 30 minutes. Prehat the oven to 430F. Bake for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes turn the bottom sides of pretzels up and then bake for another 10 minutes.