As I have mentioned in other posts, I love bread, and this Kaak recipe is no exception!
Especially sesame bread – known as Ka’ak in Arabic.
I love, love this bread. Soft and full of air pockets on the inside, crunchy crust smothered in sesame seeds on the outside!
What’s not to like?!
This is a type of bread that you commonly find in countries of the Fertile Crescent, with variations from place to place.
Some would say the most famous of which is the Palestinian Kaak from Jerusalem (ka’ak il qudss).
And in my opinion they are not wrong.
I was just in East Jerusalem, and had the opportunity to become reacquainted with this bread.
Lovely experience as always!
The ka’ak sellers stand on the sidewalks with their trays in front of them stacked high with their particular kaak (sesame bread).
Calling to passers by, and selling to their regular customers.
It is customary to sell baked eggs as well.
Baked eggs and kaak is a well known combination for breakfast in the Fertile Crescent countries.
And Za’atar is often given away for free, but it’s not usually of the best quality.
Much better to make your own, which is what I have done this week.
I will be posting my za’atar making process soon.
What is Ka’ak?
The bread is made into a large ring shape that resembles a donut or bagel.
It is common to see Kaak sold on the street by vendors who make the bread fresh every day.
Kaak is eaten mainly as a snack or for breakfast.
In Lebanon, Ka’ak takes on more of a desert style instead of the savoury version described above.
After preparing Kaak with sweet dough and topping with sesame seeds the bread is covered in a milk and sugar mix similar to a donut glaze.
So whether you like it savoury or sweet you can prepare and enjoy your Kaak the way that is preferable to you.
How to Make Ka’ak
The first step of making kaak is preheating your oven to 500°F (260°C).
To this mixture add the liquids which are olive oil and water then mix all these ingredients together using your hand to bring the dough together.
Knead for 10 minutes and if you notice the dough is too wet, add some flour, and if too dry add 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 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.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise.
Crack egg into a small bowl, add the water and whisk.
Using a pastry brush cover each piece of dough with the liquid.
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.
Modern vs Traditional Bread
The only difference is that today it is a common practice, and this is true all over the world, that dough conditioner is often used to enhance bread.
It makes the texture and appearance more uniform.
It kind of 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 and allowed to rise several times developing a good gluten structure, no more crunchy crust.
Replaced with a bouncy, air filled, soft, flavorless mass, the bread in the supermarket is just a bad invention when it comes to flavor.
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.
Creating a starter and feeding it as you use it to make batches of bread is a lovely and unique experience.
And it makes a one of a kind batch of bread every time.
Watching over my bread dough before kneading it again as it goes on to become a beautiful dough is what it’s all about.
I delight in the feel and texture of a well made bread dough.
Nothing feels quite like it.
It’s an interactive experience, that with the love you put into the process creates something unique to you with the flavors you love.
I recommend everyone takes up bread making.
A joy of joys in my humble opinion!
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 would think that 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 when we eat.
My dad has a hard time getting through any meal without a piece of bread.
I’m right there with him on that, and find it ever so hard to resist a good piece of bread.
A bad one too sometimes!
To sum up, there is nothing like good fresh homemade bread. Nothing! Period!
Equipment I Used
- 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 flour on your hands make a hole in the middle of each piece of dough and shape each into a ring. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise.
- Generously sprinkle the sesame seeds onto the rings of dough.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- When making bread it is important to have a very hot oven. Using a baking stone is always preferred if possible.
- If the dough is too wet, add some flour, and if too dry add water. You want dough that is just a tad sticky and not too dry.