Ka3ek bel semsem or sesame bread is a traditional bread popular in the Levant countries (Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon). Many start their day buying one of these from bakeries or carts selling it in the street. If you pass through any of the old streets of Amman in the early morning, you are bound to hear ” toasty toasty ka’aek” being called out from an old man driving his cart, greeting you with a smile and a wish for a wonderful morning. If you stop by, you can buy this sesame bread plain or as a sandwich filled with cheese, zaatar, falafel or oven baked eggs.
The shape of this sesame bread can vary from a ring to an elongated oval to a shape similar to an american football.The ring shaped ones look a little like Turkish simit but this bread is a yeast bread while the Turkish Simit is unleavened (does not utilize yeast or any other leavening agent.) Ka3ek bel semsem of sesame bread is one of a variety of baked goods that celebrate sesame seeds. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother make something called karakesh which is similar to a sesame cracker but it is sweet and shaped into round disks (I will share the recipe soon). Making this bread always reminds me of my grandmother, I smell toasted sesame and I am a kid again sitting in her kitchen on a cold winter morning watching her toast sesame till it is golden brown and steaming hot.
I came across this recipe on Lakii forum, they were celebrating a month for the city of Jerusalem, many actually call this the Jerusalem sesame crusted bread rings. I followed the recipe except for adding vinegar to the dough and the egg wash in the topping because I was worried it would smell a little eggy. The vinegar did the job beautifully and all you can smell is the toasty sesame and the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread
Sesame bread (Ka3ek bel semsem)
You can find a printable version of the recipe here
3 to 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons powdered milk (see notes)
3/4 to 1 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 table spoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the topping
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon vinegar
Anise seeds (optional)
Proof the yeast by mixing it with the sugar and 3/4 cup water. The yeast should bubble and foam, if it doesn’t you need to discard it and start over with new yeast.
In a bowl add the flour, salt ,powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Rub the eggs into the flour with your finger tips.
Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes till you get a smooth slightly sticky dough (you may or may not need to add more water depending on the type of flour you use).
Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size
Cut the dough into 4 parts
Roll out each part into a rectangle.
Using your finger tips roll the dough starting with the long side of the rectangle.
Form the dough into a ring or elongated oval shape
Add the vinegar to the beaten eggs, bake to combine (the vinegar is added to prevent your baked bread from smelling eggy)
Spread the sesame seeds on a flat plate
Dip the dough ring into the beaten egg and then dip it in the sesame seeds
Allow to rest for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 270 C or as high as your oven can go
Place the dough on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes on 270 then lower the heat to 200 and bake till the bottom is golden brown (this requires another 7- 10 minutes)
Turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes to allow the top to become golden brown
Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes
Enjoy warm or cool with a cup of tea
If you don’t have powdered milk just replace the water in the recipe with liquid milk
The amount of flour you will need will differ with the type of flour you use
The topping is traditionally only sesame but you can add some anise seeds or fennel seeds if you want