This month Karen of Bake My Day decided the Bread Baking Babes would bake some Ka’ak – Lebanese Sesame Topped Bread. Now Ka’ak is the Arabic word for cake but across the Middle East it is also the name for a kind of flatbread. This bread, in countries like Palestine, Syria and Jordan, generally has a hole in the middle, is topped with sesame seeds and is sold everywhere.
In Lebanon, Ka’ak is the same with a hole in it but the hole is off-centre so it looks more like a handbag or purse. For this reason it is also called Handbag or Purse Bread. It is a very popular street bread and usually sold by cart or bicycle vendors. The breads are tied or strung together through the “holes” on poles or hooks making it easy to transport. Ka’ak is crisp, with a soft and airy crumb. Slightly chewy, it is generally eaten with Za’atar or a local cheese spread.
When I saw this month’s bread announcement I went looking through my copy of Anissa Helou’s Mediterranean Street Food. I didn’t find a recipe for Ka’ak but I found this excerpt – “Sesame Galettes, in one form or another are a street staple throught the eastern Mediterranean. In Greece, Turkey, and Egypt they are shaped into rings and in Greece they are made slightly sweet. In Lebanon they are shaped like handbags, and the vendor will tear the fat ‘bag’ part open to sprinkle the inside with a little za’tar. In tripoli and Syria the galettes are shaped into flat disks and are often sold filled halloumi cheese seasoned with sumac.”
If you’re thinking that this is just another sesame topped flatbread, you couldn’t be more wrong. My photographs don’t do the bread justice at all because they were taken at night in bad light while a very hungry family was impatiently waiting for their soup and bread! There’s no secret ingredient in this recipe but the bread is worth making an eating.
The bread is easy enough to make but has two rises before shaping unlike regular bread. This apparently makes the bread softer. If the 1 tbsp of yeast scares you like it did me, don’t worry. It seemed like a lot of yeast but didn’t want to alter the recipe much since it was my first try. I don’t like very yeasty bread but I couldn’t even taste all that yeast in the bread.
As I always do with breads, I didn’t use an egg wash but a “cornstarch” wash instead. Otherwise I pretty much went with Karen’s recipe. My dough went through an extra rise (three rises in all) before shaping however. I now live in a part of the world where power outages (scheduled and unscheduled) are the norm. And wouldn’t an outage happen just when the dough was ready for the oven? So after two rises, my dough spent a few hours in the fridge rising a third time before shaping.
There are a couple of different ways of shaping this Ka’ak. One is to roll out portions of the dough into a round and use a small round cookie cutter to make the “hole” in the bread. This does leave you with little extra rounds of dough. The other method is to roll the dough like shaping pretzels – a thick middle and thinner ends which can be brought together forming the “handle” of the handbag bread.
Ka’ak – Lebanese Sesame Topped Bread
- 1 cup warm milk
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp active dried yeast or 3/4instant dry yeast
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup to 3/4water
- 1/8 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch or 1 egg for egg wash
- 1-2 tbs sesame seeds per Ka’ak
- Put all the ingredients listed upto and including the flours in a large bowl (or food processor bowl). Make sure your yeast is active. Mix together. Add 1/2 cup water and as much more of it as required and knead the dough until it is soft, elastic but not sticky.
- Shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat well with the oil. Cover loosely and let it rise till double in volume – about 1 1/2 hours. Knead lightly and let it rest in the same bowl for another hour or so till double in volume.
- Then lightly flatten the dough and divide it into 6 or 8 pieces. 8 will give you smaller Ka’ak. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into an approximately 1/2" thick round. If using 6 pieces of dough roll out to about 7” in diameter. If using 8, then roll out to about 5” in diameter. Using a small round cookie cutter cut out a hole away from the centre towards the edge but not too close to it. Stretch it slightly (not too much or the dough will become too thin) to give it a more rustic look, if you would prefer. Place on a lined, floured or lightly greased baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough. You can bake the cut out rounds of dough as they are. Let the shaped dough rise till a bit puffy, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Brush the top with a mixture of milk and corn starch (or egg wash) and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
- Preheat your oven to 220C (430F) with a baking stone or an inverted baking tray inside. Bake the breads for about 10 to 15 minutes till puffed and golden brown. Let them cool a bit before digging in.
- There was a suggestion that these breads would benefit from a bit of steam in your oven (ice cubes or boiling water in a heated pan) but I didn’t use it.
The Bread Baking Babes are –
Though the Bread Baking Babes (BBB) are a closed group, you’re most welcome to bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy. Here’s how it works.
The Kitchen of the Month this month is Karen’s and the recipe for this month’s bread is on her blog. Bake the Ka’ak according to that recipe and post it on your blog before the 28th of this month. Make sure you mention the Bread Baking Babes and link to her BBB post in your own post.
Then e-mail Karen with your name and the link to the post, or leave a comment on her blog post with this information. She will do a Buddy round-up for this month on her blog and send you a BBB badge for this bread to add to your post on your blog.