Seeds and olive oil bread “كعك بزيت”

seeds and olive oil bread

Olive oil bread, kaaek bel zait (كعك بزيت) or akras el eid  (اقراص العيد) is a popular bread in the middle east.It is usually made in the olive pressing season to celebrate the fresh olive oil and a sweetened version of it is made in Eid as a dessert served to friends and family. What makes this bread special is the combination of seeds (sesame, Nigella and anise seeds), spices (mahlab, ground anise and ground fennel)  and olive oil. The seeds add texture and little bursts of flavor when you bite into them. While the olive oil adds a nutty rich flavor and a beautiful yellowish hue. The characteristic pattern that sets this bread apart comes from the hand carved wooden molds traditionally used in making this bread.

bread mold

If the mold looks familiar, it is because the mold is a bigger version of  the maamoul molds you saw in my maamoul post. As with the maamoul molds, these beautiful old hand carved molds are being replaced by plastic mass-produced ones. They may be cheaper and easier to find than their wooden counter parts but if you ask me, they lack the character and spirit unique to the hand carved ones.

There are different stories behind the patterns on the old traditional wooden mold. My favorite is that the little circles are supposed to resemble the effect  raindrops leave when they hit the soil or water. Being originally a peasant bread, farmers wanted bread with patterns that reminds them of the rain that means a good season.

Making this bread is easy and rewarding. The combination of seeds and spices used to season it, with the nutty olive oil results in a unique bread that will captivate your senses. It is beautifully patterned with a special warm and earthy hue. When you bake it, a cloud of spice will take over your house and call everyone to the kitchen. The real treat however is when you taste it. Soft and chewy. Fragrant with pleasant hints of spice. Rich without being overwhelming.

If you need any more convincing and you are not already in the kitchen gathering ingredients, this olive oil bread stays in the fridge in great condition for  2 weeks and you can store in the freezer for 3 months. All you have to do is take it out and heat it, make a cup of tea and enjoy a wonderful snack or lunch with some salty cheese and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Olive oil bread (Kaaek bel zait كعك بالزيت )

Makes 20 small or 8 large loaves

5 cups flour (see notes)

2/3 cup olive oil

1 cup powdered milk

3 teaspoons dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons  anise seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon ground anise

1/2 teaspoon ground mahlab

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

2 cups Water

Olive oil for brushing the bread

Bread making instructions

Proof the yeast by mixing the yeast with 1/2 cup of water and the sugar and wait for it to foam and bubble.

In a bowl, mix the flour, powdered milk,  anise seeds, sesame seeds and ground anise, mahlab and fennel

Add the olive oil and rub it into the flour mix with your finger tips until the mix resembles wet sand.


Add the yeast water mix and start kneading the dough.

Gradually add the water until you get a smooth dough that does not stick to your hands or the bowl


Cover the dough and allow it to double in a warm place


Preheat your oven to 270 C and position the oven rack in the middle

Cut the dough into 20 small balls or 10 big ones depending on the size of the loaves you want

step 1

Brush your bread mold (if using) with olive oil and roll the dough on top of the bread mold or simply roll the dough into a circle 1 cm in thickness (see notes)



Arrange the dough circles on a baking sheet that has been brushed with oil or lined with parchement paper, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds


Bake in the oven until the bottoms are golden brown

Turn on the broiler and allow the top to become golden brown

olive oil bread @chef in disguise

If you like the bread to be richer in flavor, brush the hot bread with some more olive oil. (I usually skip this step)

Cool the bread on a wire rack and then store in the fridge for 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Serve with a salty cheese like nabulsi cheese and a cup of tea and enjoy.

kaaek bel zait


The flour: The outcome of this recipe depends on the type of flour you use. The recipe as listed will give you a soft and chewy bread. I usually use 4 cups white four and one whole wheat flout to get a hint of nutty flavor from the whole wheat flour. If you increase the amount of whole wheat flour to 50% the bread will be crisper, almost cracker like in consistency.The bread in the top picture was made with 4 cups white flour and 1 whole wheat, it comes out soft and chewy. The big ones in the other pictures were made with 50-50 whole wheat and white bread and they were crispier and more cracker like

Thin or thick: Another factor that will greatly affect your finished bread is the thickness you roll the bread into. If you roll the dough thinly (less than 1 cm)the bread will be crisp and almost like crackers. If you roll it thick the bread will be chewy and soft. Do remember that this bread will rise considerably in the oven, it almost doubles in keep that in mind when you roll it. The small bread you see in the top picture was rolled to be 1 cm thick , the big loaves in the other pictures were rolled thinner and as a result they were crispier

Wait or bake immediately: Another way to control how soft or crisp your bread will be. If you want the bread to be soft and chewy allow the bread to rest for 15-20 minutes after rolling. If you want it to be crisper, bake it immediately after you roll it.

The olive oil: Some recipes call for kneading the dough with only 1/4 cup of olive oil and brush the rest on top after baking the bread. I personally prefer to add the olive oil to the dough, that results in a richer flavor and softer bread that is more chewy

Don’t have the mold: Don’t worry about it, you can just roll the dough with a rolling pin and decorate it with a fork or the edge of the knife or you can leave it as is. It will still taste amazing

 kaaek bel zait@chef in disguise

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  1. Ooohhhh…Sawsan…I’ve never had these before. The molds are so very lovely–and you are right, they have real character. This recipe, even without the molds, is in my “to make” file! Thank you.

  2. What a beautiful production! I can almost smell the seeds and the olive oil in this bread – just perfect!

  3. Looks delicious! I can eat through the screen if I could. Saving this recipe to make for Eid but not sure if I can wait that long. Also, love the make ahead part.

    In the absence of the mold what can I use to make the pretty designs?

  4. The small loaves in the picture on the top seem thicker compared to the rest. Were they not made using the mold?

    The combination of flavours and the lovely colour makes these breads very special though they seem to be more like thick crackers than ‘breads’. :)

    • Hello Maria
      Yes the ones on top where not made with the mold. They where just rolled by hand.
      As for the bread being a cracker, as I mentioned in the notes. it depends on the type of flour you use and on how thin you roll it

      • I’m embarrassed to admit that I neglected to read the notes where you explained this difference. I had intended to read over the post again along with the comments after I returned from my physiotherapy. Thank you for your patience in explaining again for me. :)

  5. This bread sounds delicious, and the molds are beautiful!

  6. I have never saw one of these larger molds here in Saudi. Do you know where I can buy one from I would love to buy it and make this inshAllah. It looks amazing.

  7. Rasha

     /  January 17, 2013

    These look yummy! again I find myself hungry and craving some of this delicious bread with the cheese and a cup of minted tea :)

  8. Oh my golly gosh, this is the first time since going grain-free, that I have hungered after some bread. That looks truly delicious.

  9. So many great things about this recipe Sawsan – the seed combo, the colour and the fact that it stays fresh for so long. Looks delicious. Lovely photos too as always!

  10. Oh Sawsan, these look absolutely delectable! I will HAVE to try them! Your photos are always so homey and beautiful!

  11. Wow, these look wonderful Sawsan, and you know I just WANT that mold. What a beautiful bread it makes, and I really love how versatile this recipe is, thin cracker, thick chewy bread, what more can you want? I love the flavour of olive oil in bread too and I still have some that I brought back from Morocco (it’s very olive tasting). I may have to go on the search for these beautiful molds, out of wood, of course.
    Hope you survived your snow storm, all of our snow melted last week with a warm front — it was nice to be able to open the windows (12°C), but now it’s winter again and it’s darn cold. My hands and feet have been cold all week. This bread would really make the house smell amazing.

  12. This post is really lovely! Such pretty molds, and the bread sounds amazing! :D

  13. I love those molds! Wood for me, please. And I love the recipe, too. What great flavor! Really looks like fun both to make and eat. Thanks for this.

  14. This bread looks so very wonderful. The molds give such an elegant presentation!

  15. This bread looks amazing!! I like these flatter breads instead of the traditional american loafs of bread.

  16. There needs to be a love button up there!

  17. Sahar

     /  January 18, 2013

    I was at the Bazaar of the old town in Damascus one week ago, have seen those molds. But, who would go to Damascus right now?

  18. Sahar

     /  January 18, 2013

    I am going to try this but with whole wheat flour… Thank you for all the awesome recipes you share with us Sawsan.

  19. the bread sounds lovely Sawsan.. I love the taste of olive oil in bread.. its fresh and distinctive.. and am a big fan of sesame and all those spices.. except for maybe mahleb..i should have the rest.. it all sounds so good!!!

  20. Chana

     /  January 18, 2013

    Beautiful post, beautiful bread. I wanted to jump up and run to the kitchen and start them immediately, but it’s almost midnight here so I will have to wait. (But only until tomorrow.) And I happen to have mahleb and black sesame seeds left over from some khak I tried to make a while ago (which came out only so-so). For the smaller ones on top made without the mold, it looks like you coiled them and then flattened them, no? Does that give them a layered texture? Oh yes, I will be making these soon. Thanks so much.

    • So sorry for the delay Channa.
      The smaller ones on the top were made by simply rolling out the dough. No coiling.
      I really hope you will enjoy these when you have a chance to make them

  21. Sawsan, this sounds so good and looks so lovely! I agree with you; older, wooden molds have character.
    And thank you for showing us the names in Arabic; I find the writing to be the most beautiful in the world…it’s art to me!

  22. I love the meaning behind the molds–that the farmers wanted to be reminded of rain, which is essential to a bountiful harvest. Lovely! I agree that it is a shame they are moving to mass-produced plastic molds. They definitely lack the character and charm of the wooden versions. I bought my ma’amoul molds at a shop down the street. I will have to see if they have these too!

  23. What a treasure to have a mold handed down from your mother. Bet you think of her every time you use the mold. Hand carved wooden molds are so rare these days. Your bread sounds real yummy.

  24. What a beautiful bread, the molds leave such lovely patterns!

  25. They are beautiful, Sawsan…really, really beautiful. Thanks for sharing :)

  26. I know I would love that bread. I’m a breadaholic anyway, but this sounds special. And I definitely want your wooden molds!

  27. This is SO up my alley, Sawsan! I would love (love!) to make it! Several of these spices (or seeds) I’m not familiar with but I think I need to make an Internet shopping trip to my spice source. Love everything about this bread, from it’s history, it’s appearance, it’s seediness (in the right sense of the word!) , the press it’s made with and its heavy olive oil note! I really think I Need to make this beautiful bread! I wonder if I can locate a press??

  28. Actually I’ve only never heard of the mahlab, but the nigella seed I’ve heard of but to the best of my knowledge never tasted.

  29. Oh wow! I have never heard of this bread before, but it looks and sounds delicious! The molds are so lovely and full of character! They are very special! I would love to sample these one day!

  30. These little breads look scrumptious :). Thank you for another wonderful recipe.

  31. Hi Sawsan, love your bread, very interesting. This is the first time I see this kind of bread and the mold. Very unique and beautiful. Excellent posting.

    Have a wonderful weekend, regards.

  32. Savory. Stunning. And I love the seeds! :D

  33. Your bread looks absolutely delicious, and pretty, too!

  34. LOVE this recipe. Are the whole spices set in stone (traditionally) or can other spices be used, like cumin or fennel or cracked coriander?

  35. mjskit

     /  January 20, 2013

    This little breads look delicious! I love your beautiful mold but glad to know that you really don’t need it. Olive add such a fabulous flavor to breads. I can’t wait to make this!

  36. Sawsan, this is definitely something I’ll be trying when we press our olive oil this year! My husband’s family has a ritual olive picking and pressing each Autumn, so in May this year when the time rolls around, I’ll be waiting with flour in hand to make this beautiful kaak.

    In the meantime I need to ask one of my cousins in Amman to see if she can find me a mold! Or, troll the Palestinian/Lebanese shops to see if they have one :) Beautiful recipe.

  37. Love the effect these molds have on the finished brea, Sawsan. How very clever! I really do enjoy how moist olive il will make bread and I can only imagine how nice freshly pressed oil would affect your loaves. Above all else, I do appreciate the time you take to teach us dishes from your part of the World. I fear you’ve missed your calling. You should have been a teacher. :)

  38. I love all your wooden molds Sawsan. They are so beautiful. This bread sounds delicious. I made a bread with anise in it once and loved it (Not sure why I haven’t made it since.), so I know I would really enjoy these. I think Miss A would really like it too. I can almost smell it!

  39. How wonderful they looked, Sawsan! It’s impossible to find that wooden carved mould here ( I have added that to my shopping list now, whenever I come to your side of the world!),I can just imagine the aroma of spices and olive oil in the bread. Maybe I would just hand knead it? They look really irresistable.

  40. I have never seen or heard about this bread. looks great. The mold is so interesting too,how i wish i had one. My Sister in law lives in the middle east i think i should ask her to pick one for me:) I also havent heard about nabulsi cheese,i went through your link. I will buy rennet and make this soon. great recipe Sawsun:) loving it!


  41. I have just one word for this: WOW!!!

    Can I visit you? Can I Can I Can I??????

    I want to eat everything you cook. Seriously!!!

  42. miriam

     /  February 6, 2013

    wowo..have to try this it looks so exquisite…also can you please post a recipe for a tradtional everyday arabic chai( tea)..with mint or sage or without?thank you in advance

    • I really hope you will enjoy them Miriam, please let me know how they turn out
      As for the tea, will do soon, I have a post coming up about zhorat and adani tea and I will add the arabic tea to it

  43. The molds are lovely, beautiful….! Be sure to find something!
    Bread sounds delicious!

  44. I just find your blog at the Daring Cooking monthly challenge.. great challenge, by the way :)
    I have a question, don’t you add salt to the recipe? I just baked them yesterday, but I found that some salt was missing. I checked your recipe again and I didn’t see it in the list.
    Thank you for your recipes… all of them look awesome and yummy

    • Thank you for visiting my blog Aisha,
      This bread is traditionally eaten with a salty cheese called nabulsi cheese (the one you see in the pictures), that cheese is very salty. That is why there is no salt in the bread recipe. If you want to serve it on its own you can add a little salt to the dough or sprinkle it on top

  45. Suzan

     /  April 21, 2013

    My mom makes this bread every Eid and I love it!! I eat it with either halloumi or akawi cheese and dip it in olive oil, love love! I’ve never actually made it myself though. I have a question though, I don’t buy powdered milk, could this be substituted with real milk?? And how? Thanks!

    • Hello Suzan
      You can use milk instead of water for kneading the dough but still that would not replace the whole amount of powdered milk. You see the milk makes the dough fluffier and more chewy. You will still get great bread but it will be slightly less chewy

  46. Kamela

     /  July 15, 2013

    Awesome! How much sugar can I add to the recipe to make it sweet?

  47. Oh I am so excited to see this post! For sometime now I have had wooden bread molds like this and no clue what to do with them. Bookmarked your recipe:-)

  48. Oh that’s WONDERFUL, thank you! I just saw this post mentioned on Glenda’s blog (Passion Fruit Garden) – I have a stack of these moulds, but thought they were for kaak or ma’moul, I didn’t realise they were for bread! And I’ve been using them for chocolate. :D I’ll have to give this a go, thanks again! :)

  49. Maeve Heneke

     /  October 23, 2013

    I saw a reference to your blog by Celia @ Fig jam and Lime Cordial and immediately pursued it as I love Middle Eastern food, both cooking and eating it. Finding you has made my day! (And I think I’m going to spend a lot of today reading your posts…)

    • Hello Maeve
      Thank you so much for stopping by
      I am really glad you like my blog :) I really hope you will enjoy the posts and the recipes if you have a chance to try them

  50. Just found your blog and I love it. Can’t wait to try this beautiful bread.

  51. Nina Owies

     /  June 23, 2014

    I can’t wait to try this bread, it looks delicious! My husband is from Palestine and he likes this bread a lot every time my mother in law bakes it when they visit us. I will surprise my hubby when I make this. I’m so happy I found your website. I tried your Makloubeh recipe and my husband and kids love it! Shukran ya habibti!

  52. Thank you Sawsan, the bread is beautiful and full of original Palestinian flavor… and the smell of baking is just great …. Thanks once more of the accurate recipe… all the best..

  53. Ayesha

     /  October 23, 2014

    Hi there, I really love your recipes, they skyways inspire me to do more baking and to be mire adventurous. I’d very much like to make this bread and wondered if you would be able to kindly source one or two if these bread molds for me, I would be very happy to pay fit theses lovely items. In the UK I can’t seem to find them anywhere or even online is proving to be very difficult. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Kindest regards :)

  1. In My Kitchen – September 2013 | Passion Fruit Garden

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