Almost every street corner in East Jerusalem has a vendor with a trolley piled high with hoops of sesame-encrusted white bread called Ka’ak Al Quds: the aroma of fresh baking and toasted sesame is overpowering and irresistible. London-based chef Sami Tamimi, originally from East Jerusalem, has published a glorious book on Palestinian cuisine entitled Falastin (the Arabic language, he explains, does not have a letter “P”, so it should perhaps be “Falastinian”). I cannot recommend the book highly enough and you really, really should go out and buy it, so I hope Sami will forgive me for reproducing my version of his recipe here.
- 10g dried yeast
- 20g sugar
- 300ml lukewarm water (around 40℃)
- 40g olive oil
- 250g strong white flour
- 250g plain white flour
- 10g salt
- 15g dried skimmed milk
- 1 egg
- 20ml milk (or water)
- 60g sesame seeds
This will make six of the hoops-shaped loaves: you will be able to fit two at a time onto a typical baking tray (something like 35cm x 25cm). If you have three trays and a big enough oven, you can bake the whole batch at a time; otherwise, you’ll have to do them in two or three batches.
- In a bowl or jug, combine the yeast, sugar, lukewarm water and olive oil and stir well. Leave for 5-10 minutes until it’s frothing nicely
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flours, salt and dried skimmed milk and stir until evenly mixed
- Add the wet mix to your dry mix and knead with the dough hook until smooth (by the way, Sami’s recipe says 270ml, but I found I needed a bit more).
- Form into a ball and leave to rise in an oiled, covered bowl. Usual bread-making rules apply: the warmer the place you leave it, the quicker it will rise, so there’s no point in my giving you a numbers of hours it will take.
- Cut three rectangles of baking paper big enough to line your tray.
- Once your dough has risen, divide it evenly into six balls. Take the trouble to weigh them to make sure they’re about the same – expect around 150g each.
- Take a ball of dough, mould it to a flattened sphere, poke a hole through the middle of your sphere of dough and pull it apart to form an elongated doughnut shape. Pull it to most of the length of your tray, trying to keep the width as even as possible, which is tricky, and place it on one of your rectangles of baking paper; now repeat for the other five balls.
- Cover the loaves loosely with tea towels and leave for another half hour or so.
- Preheat your oven to 220℃ fan, with your baking tray(s) inside
- Lay out the sesame seeds in a dish longer than your loaves (or on a board if you don’t have one)
- Beat the egg together with the milk
- When you’re ready to bake, brush a loaf with the egg wash, dip it wash side down into the sesame seeds and ensure that it’s thoroughly coated.
- Put the loaf back onto the baking paper, sesame side up, and repeat for as many loaves as you’re going to do now.
- Take a baking tray out of the oven and transfer the baking paper rectangle with its two loaves onto it. To do this, you will probably either need two people or a tray of some sort.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes – you want the loaf to be a deep golden brown but not actually burning.
Leave to cool for a few minutes before eating: this bread is at its best straight out of the oven, but you don’t want to burn your tongue!