Also known as simit, this sesame-covered bread is sold by street vendors throughout Greece and has a secret ingredient for the best taste!
This little circular bread, all covered in sesame seeds, could be the distant cousin of pretzel! Luckily, it’s a bit easier to make since it doesn’t require the boiling in alkalized water step. As far as I know, this kind of bread is sold by street vendors in Greece and in Turkey (if you know any other country in which it is sold, please tell me in the comments!) and it’s a quick and cheap snack perfect to saturate your hunger. In Turkey, it’s called simit, while in Greece it goes by the name koulouri or koulouri Thessalonikis. The only difference I have been able to find between koulouri and simit is their slightly different appearance, with simit being made by twisting two rows of dough together and then forming the ring while koulouri is just a plain string of dough made circular by pinching the two edges together.
I just love it every time I work with bread dough! Either it’s a white chocolate, goji berry, and saffron babka, or an olive oil quick bread for a whole wheat Mediterranean pizza, I never let my mixer do all the work. I always do some kneading by myself since I find the whole process stress-relief plus it’s my way of putting some extra love into my baking! These Greek bagels will not give you any trouble, since the dough is pretty easy to work with, and you won’t have to worry much about their shape. Make them uneven for a rustic/homemade look.
As I said above, koulouri is round, like a ring, and has a generous coating of sesame seeds. It also has a secret ingredient! Sesame paste, also known as tahini, gives koulouri its characteristic aroma and flavor. Without it, it would just be another piece of bread! But be careful, you don’t want to actually taste the tahini in the dough, you just want a hint of this nutty paste, so a tablespoon per one pound of flour is enough.
Some bakers like to dip the formed rings of dough in water and then roll them into a bowl of sesame seeds, but I find it easier to place sesame seeds into a fine sieve, rinse them with water and then mix them with a tablespoon of sugar. Sugar, besides the taste, helps them stick onto the dough.
Greek bagels should have a caramelized, crunchy crust and a soft, fluffy interior. They should be covered with plenty of sesame seeds and have a hint of nuttiness due to the tahini. They keep well for 3-4 days but, as with any other bread, after the first day they will lose their crunchiness. This is not a serious problem with me, since I like them anyway. But if you desperately want their crunchy crust back, the only way to bring them to their original state is to briefly heat them in the oven for a few minutes 🙂
- To make sesame stick on the bagels, rinse it with water and mix it with a tablespoon of brown or white sugar (brown sugar will make the crust darker when baked).
- To ensure a crunchy crust, spray bagels with water before and during baking.
- Store them in the fridge, in a zip-log bag, and just heat them in a warm oven for 5 minutes to retrieve their crunchy crust.
- Pair them with a glass of milk for a nice breakfast!
- Cut them horizontally and fill it with whatever comes to mind for a delicious snack!
- Possible fillings: ham and cheese, cream cheese-tomato-lettuce, tahini and honey, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate-praline paste.
Greek sesame bagels (koulouri)
- 3 cups (450 grams) bread flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon (10 grams) fine salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast (2 packets)
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 cup warm water (not hot, because it will kill the yeast)
- 1 cup (about 130 grams) whole sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry yeast, a couple tablespoons of flour (taken from the 3 cups), the sugar and mix well. Add the water, stir to combine and let it foam for 10-15 minutes.
- When it foams, add the rest of the flour, the tahini, the olive oil, the vinegar, and the salt. With the dough attachment, knead for at least 10-15 minutes, until a pliable and elastic dough is formed. Let the dough rise in a warm place until tripled in volume (about 2-3 hours depending on the temperature).
- Place sesame in a fine sieve, rinse with water and transfer to a wide plate. Mix it with a tablespoon of brown sugar and stir well. Line two pans with baking paper.
- Punch dough to deflate and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a strand, a little thicker than your index finger and pinch the ends to create a ring. Roll the rings into the sesame seeds, pressing gently to stick and transfer onto the baking pan.
- Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C) and let the bagels rest for about 15 minutes, until they rise slightly (you don't want them to double in size, because you'll end up with bread).
- Spray them with water and bake in a fan-forced oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. (If you don’t have a fan-forced oven, you will bake one pan at a time). Spray with water one more time half-way through baking. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
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