Well, ok, this one’s hard.
No, you’ll see that it is not actually hard to make this. Do it twice and it will be the easiest thing! But it is a bit hard to explain. Anyway, I’ll try!
Simit is the most basic street food in Turkish cuisine. You can find it in anywhere in the country, in every corner, in almost all the bakeries, on the streets, in the highways at the hands of tanned Turkish men – tanned because of trying to sell these under the sun the whole day! Simit is so easy to find anywhere in Turkey that I never ever thought that I would make it myself. I also always thought that you would need special flour, special ingredients, special oven etc. to make Simit. But I see now that using regular flour, normal oven and all sorts of regular ingredients you can perfectly have nice, crispy bagels.
And how do we eat it? When I was a child, I only ate it with butter. As I got older, instead of butter, I started to eat it with white cheese. I like making bagel sandwich with white cheese and tomatoes for instance (you can find Turkish white cheese in Alanya Oriental Market in Itäkeskus or in the oriental market in Hakaniemi metro station). And of course, you drink black tea with it.. Many Istanbul residents love to have a breakfast consisting of tea-bagel-white cheese, on the boat between Asian and European sides of the city. Every now and then, they also throw a little piece of the bagel to the seagulls that peacefully fly alongside the boat (I have to say, the seagulls of Istanbul are not as aggressive as those of Helsinki…).
One last thing: it is best to eat it freshly made, but if you have some left for the next day, just put it on a pan on medium heat and warm up both sides without burning.
For the dough:
600 ml. warm water
11 gr. (1 package) dry yeast
15 ml. granulated sugar (definitely white!)
4 ml. salt
4-5 cups of flour
Covering the bagel:
200 gr. sesame seeds (the one in the picture below at step 1 is the best one for this)
2 tbsp molasses or treacle (I use treacle that you can see below, you can find it in Ruohonjuuri in Kamppi)
2 tbsp lukewarm water
1. Put the sesame seeds on a medium-size wide pan and roast in medium heat for about 20 minutes, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn it, roast it until they turn to a light brown colour. When it is done, take it away from the heat and let it cool (I suggest you really do this as the first step. If you roast sesame seeds as a later step your fingers will burn in later steps when you cover the bagel with it – I surely experienced that!)
2. In a large bowl, pour 600 ml. warm water. Pour yeast in the water, mix it with a spoon briefly and leave it for 3-5 minutes. After that, add sugar and salt and again mix all with a spoon for a minute. Finally start adding flour and kneading the dough. For this, I suggest you first put aside 4 cups of flour. Start adding the flour to your liquid mixture bit by bit while with one hand kneading the dough. In the end you should have a soft and non-sticky dough. If 4 cups are not enough (and it usually is not) add 1 more cup of flour, again slowly. When you finally have your dough texture ready, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave it to ferment for about 30 minutes.
3. After 30 minutes, check the dough. It should be doubled in size by now (oh yes, it gets cutely huge!!). If not, you can wait a bit more.
4. Preheat the oven to 220C.
5. In a large and deep plate, mix molasses and lukewarm water. Molasse is hard to totally mix with water, do it until there is no chunk of molasses in the water (look at step 7 for related pictures).
6. On your kitchen top, pour some flour on a large scale. You will be preparing the bagel on the flour so that it does not stick at all. Take a handful from the dough and make it a long piece (around 30 cm). Then take one more piece and do the same (as seen in the picture below). Twist the two long pieces with each other and create a bagel shape as seen in the picture below on the right. How you connect the two ends is totally up to you – because I seriously do not know how to explain it. But you will see that even if you just hold the two ends in your hand and put it on the tray as this, it will connect as it is baking.. (YES! this was the hardest part to explain… Did you understand it? Comment!)
7. Gently take the bagel shaped dough in your hand and put it in the plate filled with water and molasses. Cover both sides fully with molasses. Be really gentle. Below on the left you can see the treacle I use.
8. Take the bagel covered with molasses / treacle and put it on the sesame right away. Again cover both sides with sesame seeds and make sure that all the surface is covered with sesame. Sesame seeds give a great taste so do not be afraid to use A LOT of it. Gently put the sesame-covered bagel on the oven tray with a baking sheet on. I suggest you put the treacle plate, sesame pan and baking tray very close / next to each other so that you can move quickly and do not get too messy (also the dough is very fragile and you would not want to mess up your beautiful bagel shape). In oven tray, in one time I can bake four bagels. They really get big once baked so do not put them too close to each other. If you have some dough left and you need to make a second round, just cover the dough again with a damp cloth and do the steps 6-7-8 again for the second time.
9. Bake the bagel for about 20 minutes, until it has a nice brownish colour. You can check if it is really baked or not by cutting a small piece from one bagel while they are still in the oven.
Voila! You now know one of the most important, delicious and traditional food of Turkish cuisine!