Saturday, March 17, 2012

Savory Sesame Bread Rings (Ka'kat) & Roasted Thyme Sesame Blend (Za'atar)

I'm still in catch-up mode in cooking through Flatbreads & Flavors, but I'm happy to say that I'm only 2 days late this time...as opposed to 2 weeks.  A notable improvement.  And actually, I was really looking forward to baking these sesame rings for one major reason (aside from the freshly baked bread factor which is always tops).  That reason?  Oddly enough, it was the recommended accompaniment to these tempting, oval rings.  Za'atar.  Or roasted thyme and sesame blend.

You see, my favorite local market has a pretty impressive aisle housing "international" items.  I find many of the imported items that I can't find anywhere else locally.  From treacle and English biscuits to golden syrup and "exotic" spices.  For months now, I've been eyeing a 16 ounce bag of Green Za'atar.  It wasn't expensive or anything...I just wasn't sure how I would use it.  I was intrigued by the look and the ingredients of roasted wheat, roasted thyme, and ground sumac (along with sesame seeds and salt).  Ground sumac.  What in the world is it?  Sure, I'd heard of sumac.  I knew the word.  But what in the heck was it.  Really?  In the back of Flatbreads & Flavors I found my answer.  Sumac is a reddish spice that looks sort of like chile powder and made from dried, ground sumac berries.  It gives a pleasant acid taste to spice blends and dishes.  Huh.

Well, when Za'atar was listed as a suggested accompaniment, I made a beeline to the international aisle and giddily placed that bag of spice in my cart.  While I've included the recipe for making Za'atar at home, if you're unable to source sumac (like me...and no I didn't look online...I wanted it NOW), this is a fantastic option.
This sesame ring dough is simple and very easy to work with.  My recommendations are to make sure you  have a big, clear work surface for rolling the long ropes - it'll make your life so much easier.  And to use a parchment or silpat lined sheet tray to lay said ropes on.  The original recipe calls for them to be oiled, but I found that the dough kept sliding and shrinking back when I tried this.  The lining gives the dough something to hold onto and lets the rings keep their long, brilliant shape.  My rolls weren't perfectly even from top to bottom on this first try - why I'm recommending you give yourself a nice, clear, BIG work surface.  I'll follow my advice next time.   It didn't affect their baking or taste, though.  Merely the aesthetics.

I will definitely be making these again - they are wonderful while warm.  Good and chewy and perfection when ripped and dipped into olive oil and touched to the Za'atar.  My kind of snackin' food.  Or a meal (I've mentioned that I can make a meal out of bread once or twice before, no?).

Savory Sesame Bread Rings (Ka'kat)

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 15-17 minutes
Keywords: bake bread vegetarian sesame seeds Israeli
Ingredients (4 oval rings - ~12" long)
  • 1 tsp. dry yeast
  • 1½ c. warm water
  • 2 c. bread flour
  • 1-2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbs. water, for egg wash
  • 4-5 tsp. sesame seeds
accompaniments:
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • Za'atar (Roasted Thyme & Sesame Blend)- recipe follows or pre-made (I like Ziyad)
Instructions
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a medium to large bowl. Combine bread flour and salt in a small bowl and add to the yeast, one cup at a time, stirring in one direction with a wooden spoon to help activate gluten. In the same manner, stir in one cup of the whole wheat flour. Now, stir in the remaining cup of whole wheat flour a little at a time until the dough will no longer hold any flour (you may have some flour left over).

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 7-8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If dough seems sticky when you're trying to knead, add in a bit more of the flour that you haven't used yet.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, ~1 hour.
Punch down the dough and divide into 4 fairly equal pieces. On your work surface, roll each piece under your palms into a long rope, 24"-36" long. Pinch the ends of each rope together to make a loop. Place the rings on two trays that have been lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Cover and let rise 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400° F during last 15 minutes or so of rise time.

Brush each bread liberally with egg wash and sprinkle with about a quarter of the sesame seeds. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden. If both sheets don't fit on the same rack, switch them halfway through baking. Cool slightly on a rack before serving.

Serve with olive oil and a little cone of Za'atar for dipping (dip bread in oil, then touch to the herb...or simply let the herb cling to the moist crumb of the bread if you don't want to use the oil).
Za'atar (Roasted Thyme & Sesame Blend) yield: ¼ cup
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
3 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves or 2 Tbs. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
½-1 tsp. ground sumac, to taste

Place a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds and toaste, stirring or shaking constantly until they start to give off an aroma. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

Grind thyme leaves to a coarse powder in a spice grinder or mortar. Add sesame seeds and salt and grind to a powder. Add the sumac. Store in a tightly sealed spice jar or glass container.

adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors
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