Bread is one of my very favorite foods to eat, and this Kaak recipe is no exception!
Known as Ka’ak in Arabic, this sesame bread is very popular in the countries of the Levant.
It is said that the most famous of which is the Palestinian Kaak from Jerusalem (ka’ak il qudss).
Soft, and full of air pockets on the inside, with a crunchy crust smothered in sesame seeds on the outside!
What’s not to like?!
The Ka’ak sellers stand on the sidewalks with their wooden trays in front of them stacked high.
Baked in different bakeries around town, you will find a particular kaak (sesame bread) that you like best.
Calling to passers by, and selling to their regular customers, the kaak men congregate in one spot.
Although there are the roaming ka’ak men who wander the neighborhoods carrying their wooden trays on their heads.
Bringing fresh heavenly Ka’ak to your door.
It is also customary to sell baked eggs along with the Ka’ak.
Baked eggs eaten in a Kaak is a well known combination for breakfast in the Fertile Crescent.
And Za’atar is often given away for free, also a great accompaniment to this kind of bread.
What is Kaak?
The bread is made into a large ring shape that resembles a large donut or bagel but with a bigger opening.
It is common to see Kaak sold on the street by vendors who make the bread fresh every day.
In Lebanon, Ka’ak takes on more of a desert style instead of the savoury version described above.
How to Make Kaak
To this mixture add the olive oil and water, mix all ingredients together using your hand to bring the dough together.
You can also use a stand mixer utilizing the dough hook to mix and knead.
Knead for 10 minutes and if you notice the dough is too wet, add some flour, and if too dry add a dash of water.
You want dough that is just a tad sticky, and not too dry.
After mixing, cover the dough and put in a warm place and allow it to double in size.
Pour out the risen dough onto a well floured surface.
Cut the dough into four even pieces.
With flour on your hands make a whole in the middle of each piece of dough and shape each into a circle.
Slowly stretch and shape the kaak, going slowly so as not to tear the dough.
Place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise.
Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C).
Using a pastry brush gently cover each piece of dough with the wash, once done rising.
Generously sprinkle the sesame seeds onto the rings of dough.
Finally bake for 30 minutes or until the kaak is a golden brown color.
You are now ready to enjoy a most wonderful experience!
Modern vs Traditional Bread
Most things have remained the same in baking techniques and methods.
The only big difference is that today it is a common practice to use dough conditioner to enhance the bread.
This is true the world over when it comes to large bread production.
Conditioners make the texture and appearance of bread more uniform.
It gives the bread a softer feel, which sadly, is what it seems many people are looking for in their bread.
The supermarket’s so called bread has ruined people’s perception of what real, good, wholesome bread looks and tastes like.
Gone is the individual shape of each loaf, gone is the deep flavor of a bread that was born through a starter.
No more is the bread that’s allowed to rise several times, developing a good gluten structure, and disappeared is the crunchy crust.
Replaced with a bouncy, air filled, soft, flavorless mass.
The bread in the supermarket is just a bad invention in my opinion.
Especially when it comes to flavor, texture, and nutrition.
Speed however, is a different thing altogether.
This stuff can be baked in no time, and on store shelves with minimal effort.
Taking time over making your bread is what makes it such a wonderful process.
I delight in the feel and texture of a well made bread dough.
Nothing feels quite like it.
It’s an interactive experience that relies on the love you put into it as you create something unique to you.
I recommend everyone take up bread making.
A joy of joys, in my humble point of view!
Importance of Bread in Middle Eastern Cuisine
I have so much fun trying the different breads from the different bakeries, and restaurants in any town I visit.
You may think that a pita is pita is pita.
However, that would be a wrong assumption.
There are all different types of pita.
The bigger ones, the smaller ones, the thinner ones, the thicker ones, the ones more cooked and crunchy, the ones that are less so.
There really is a big difference, and everyone has their preference.
Bread is a very important part of Middle Eastern cuisine given there is so much dipping in food that goes on during meal time.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Add the olive oil and warm water.
- Mix together using your hand to bring the dough together. Knead for 10 minutes.
- Cover the dough and put in a warm place and allow to double in size.
- Pour out the risen dough onto a well floured surface. Cut into four pieces. With oil on your hands make a hole in the middle of each piece of dough and shape each into a ring.
- Mix the egg white with the 2 tbsp of water and whisk together. Brush each bread round with the egg white wash.
- Generously sprinkle the sesame seeds onto the rings of dough.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.