Old Traditions for New Beginnings
Based on Poopa Dweck’s recipe from Aromas of Aleppo.
3 tablespoons fresh yeast or 4 packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
8 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup anise seeds
1 teaspoon finely crushed mahlab (sour cherry pit can purchase on Amazon), optional
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup Earth Balance
¼ cup sesame seeds
In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast and salt over 2½ cups lukewarm water. Let the mixture stand for about 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.
Put flour in a large mixing bowl and form a well in the center.
Add the anise seed, mahlab, coriander seed, cumin, vegetable oil, sugar and vegetable shortening and stir until well combined.
Then slowly incorporate the yeast mixture into the well, absorbing flour and mix thoroughly, by hand.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is soft and smooth. Dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is sticky, gradually add one tablespoon of flour until texture is smooth.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a towel. Let the dough rise for 1½ hours in a warm place in your kitchen.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
On a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide it in 4.
Roll a piece of the dough into a 2-inch-diameter log.
Cut the log into ½-inch rounds and roll each of the rounds to a length of about 4 inch rope. You can crimp the edges of the ka’ak to give them a pretty and traditional appearance, with a sharp knife, make 1/8-inch notches along one long edge of each dough strip.
Shape each strip into a ring, crimped edges facing outward. Brush each ring of dough lightly with the egg wash. Then dip each dough ring in sesame seeds.
Place the ka’ak on a parchment-lined baking tray in rows.
Bake for 10 minutes, use all the racks in your oven and rotate the trays during the baking.
When all the ka’ak are completely baked, reduce the oven temperature to 250°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Then crisp the ka’ak by reducing oven temperature to 200°F for 20 minutes. This stage is essential to produce the crunch and texture desired.