More than just a Round Bread: The Simit

Have you ever noticed those vendors and their carts on the street corners? You can buy that traditional Turkish bread from them: the Simit. Whether it’s for breakfast or with cheese as a snack in between meals, there’s always time for this round delicacy.

Turks have known the Simit for centuries. Simit are sold in just about every street in every city and village in Turkey, and every region has its own Simit recipe. In Ankara, Simit are darker in color and harder than in other places. In Istanbul, for instance, Simit have more sesame seeds and in Izmir they’re always soft and doughy.

Simit without çay: a lonely combination

The eating of a Simit should go hand-in-hand with the drinking of a cup of Turkish tea, i.e. çay. More to the point, Turks consider a Simit without tea as a rather lonely combination. The Turkish Simit originates from the Ottoman period. Back then it was one of the most important parts of the daily diet. In those days you could get lots of different Simit. For example there was the Anatolian Simit, the sesame Simit, the extra-milk Simit, the macaroni-tasting Simit and the Simit sweetened with fruit juice. Evliya Çelebi, one of Turkey’s most renowned travellers, who had close ties with the court of the Sultan, wrote about this in his notes. According to him in the second half of the sixteenth century Istanbul had 300 bakers, making some 70 different variations of Simit.

Part of Culture

Today the Simit is more than just round bread. It’s part of the culture and provides reason for people to get together. For secret lovers, for example, who ‘just happen’ to run into each other at a Simit stall. Or friends who meet up for lunch and wander the streets while eating a Simit. Or neighbours discussing the latest gossip over a cup of tea.

Below you can read a Simit recipe:

Simit Recipe

Ingredients:

200 g butter

Half a cup of olive oil

½ glass of milk

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp yeast

1 tsp salt

2 cups of flour

1 egg

Sesame seeds

Method: Add the milk to a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for a minute. Add the sugar and yeast and wait five minutes for the mixture to start to swell. Add the butter and olive oil and mix everything together. Add the salt and finally the flour. Mix thoroughly until a dough has formed. Kneed well and leave to stand for an hour. Form the dough into small walnut-size balls then make them into small rolls. Form the rolls into rings and sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Brush the Simits with egg-white and put them in the oven. Bake the bread at 200˚C for about 20-30 minutes until cooked. Bon appetite!

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