What pretzels are to New Yorkers, simit are to Istanbulians, who buy them from street stalls all day long and munch them between appointments.
They are at least 600 years old—Topkapı Palace documents from 1593 include bulk orders for simid-i halka (round simits). They have entered the language of metaphor. A Turk who hates his job will say: ‘I’d be better off selling simit ’. Protesters trying to dissuade police from breaking up a demonstration will shout: ‘Sell simit and leave with honour.’
There are bakeries that cook nothing but simit —in wood-fire ovens, of course, at 300°C (570°F/ Gas 10+). And there are cafés, usually with titles such as ‘Palace of Simit’, that serve them with melted cheese, tomato and other unnecessary additions. Personally, I would never sit down to eat simit, and I would never cook them at home if I was in Istanbul. But outside my homeland, you need a recipe.
Mix the yeast and the sugar in a bowl with
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture, vegetable oil and thickened cream. Knead the dough for 5 minutes to make a soft and stretchy dough, adding more flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest for 1 hour. It should expand.
Add the salt to the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll into balls. Rest for 3 minutes. With floured hands, pull each ball in half and roll each half into a strip about
Dilute the grape molasses in
Place a frying pan over low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast, tossing constantly, until the seeds turn golden brown. Turn onto a tray and set aside
Pour the grape molasses into a shallow bowl. Dip the braided dough into the molasses, one at a time. Turn to coat both sides. Shake off the excess liquid then toss each braid in the sesame seeds, making sure both sides are evenly coated.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and brush with oil. Arrange the simit on the tray and
Serve warm with butter and feta, or at room temperature as part of a breakfast spread.
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