|this Kadıköy simitçi is here rain or shine|
I know what simits are: they look like this and are sold on every street corner. The Turks’ answer to hunger pangs on the go!
But what about mahlep? This I didn’t know. Was it similar to sahlep, a root or bulb of some sort? Well, ...
|sweet-smelling sesame-coated simits baked with mahlep|
It was my friend Oya who told me about these simits that she had recently featured on her own cooking website. She said I really must try them so I did! I asked her where to find mahlep and she said that any supermarket would have it with all the other spices, and she was right!
There in my small local Migros, there it was, right there! How come I had never noticed it before?
|the St Lucie Cherry|
I have since discovered that mahlep (or mahlab in the original Arabic) is a fragrant spice made from the seeds of the St Lucie Cherry, a very dark, very sour cherry which appears on the mahlep tree in late summer. It has been used for centuries throughout the Middle East to give an aromatic flavour to pastries of all sorts: the cherry stones are cracked to extract the tiny seed kernel which is ground to a powder before use. The flavour is something like a combination of bitter almond and cherry.
Mahlep can be found in speciality markets abroad especially during the holiday season. Greek stores may carry it (mahlepi). They use it in Christmas vasilopita and Easter tsoureki. You can also order it online from www.penzeys.com - a site that looks very interesting. But the good news is that you can substitute any of the following which are much more common:
Ground fennel seeds/toz rezene tohumu
Ground cardamom/toz kakule
Ground almonds/toz badem
OR grind one 2-inch/5cm cinnamon stick/tarçin çubuğu with 3 cloves/karanfil and 1 bay leaf/defne yaprağı
Ingredients for Mahlepli Simit
250g/1 packet/9oz butter
4 cups flour + 1 packet Baking Powder( 10 g or approx 3 tsp NOT packed)
1tbsp mahlep (yemek kaşığı)
1 tsp salt (çay kaşığı)
2 tbsp vinegar (çorba kaşıgı)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup yogurt
2 egg yolks
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle
· Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F.
· Place the mahlep, salt and sugar, the sieved flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the butter cut into small pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips.
|rubbing in the butter|
· Add the vinegar, olive oil and yogurt and mix to a soft dough. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
|adding all the other ingredients|
· Remove. Take small pieces and roll them in your hands into long rounded shapes. Bring the ends together to form a ring (simit). Place on an ungreased baking tray.
· Brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
· Bake until risen and golden. Best served warm with tea!
|warm and fragrant, fresh out of the oven|
As you can see, I have included the Turkish spoon measurements in brackets because this was an original Turkish recipe. The word for spoon in Turkish is kaşık but when it is preceded by another noun, the special genitive occurs: kaşığı.This is probably a good place to explain a little about Turkish spoons:
You may think a spoon is a spoon but no. Theirs are different!
a) The obvious one is a teaspoon: a Turkish teaspoon is much smaller than our English teaspoon: exactly half to be precise – 2 ml. (Ours is about 5 ml).
b) One yemek kaşığı = one tablespoon = 15 ml
c) Çorba kaşığı actually means a soup spoon but not as we know it. So a çorba kaşığı is the same as one of our tablespoons = 15 ml
In Turkey soup is eaten with a yemek kaşığı – our regular old tablespoon.
d) One tatlı kaşığı literally means a dessert spoon but it’s different: it’s the same as our teaspoon = 5mlThis isn’t really as confusing as it may look! Just if you are curious.