I am always delighted to learn some history behind foods/recipes. I saw this recipe the other day posted by my friend Didi from Facebooks "Dishin with Didi II" and needed to bake some myself. It wasn't until later that I looked into its history. I love that foods not only evoke memories but, that they are rooted in such rich culture!
Here is what I gleaned about Koulouria's: "A Koulouri is a sesame seed-coated ring of bread that can be found on the streets of Thessaloniki and Athens and most bakeries around Greece. Often they are eaten plain or when at home with some cheese, or marmalade. The Koulouri of Thessaloniki has Byzantine roots and it’s origins are from Constantinople where Christians (Greeks, Armenians) were the first bakers. Through population exchanges between Turkey and Greece, the Greeks who resettled in Thessaloniki brought along their culinary traditions with them, including the Koulouri..." "The City of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and the capital of the province of Macedonia. Athens is the capital and the heart of Greece but Thessaloniki is the belly, feeding Greece with it’s sophisticated and diverse cuisine – influenced by the past and present peoples that settled in this multi-ethnic city. Jews from Spain’s Inquisition are still here, Greeks, Pontian Greeks from the Black Sea, Greeks from Constantinople, Smyrni and Asia Minor, Wallachians."
With all that history - to say the least, this recipe is easy to make and quite excellent. I also realize now that my version - the rings do not look very 'traditional' - mine resemble more of the Jewish Bagel look - which actually turned out to be a plus as we've used them already in so many meals and prefer the smaller ring hole. We have piled leftover roast on top of some, others were toasted with Cream Cheese or spread with jam and this morning, topped with an egg for a Breakfast sandwich.... I will be making these again (and often)
Thank you Didi for introducing me not only to a great recipe but, sharing this rich cultural food. ~Enjoy! Diane
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup toasted sesame seeds, traditional (or your favorite topping)
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (at temp your yeast requires)
1 Tbs of Active yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cups water for dipping/brushing
-Using a measuring cup, add in the lukewarm water (my yeast requires 90-100 temp water), the yeast and sugar, give a stir. Set aside and let yeast proof for about 8-10 minutes. It's ready for use (and your yeast is alive) when the yeast mixture foams a bit on top.
-In your stand mixer bowl add in the flour, salt and olive oil. Once the yeast mixture is ready, add into flour mixture. Using the dough hook attachment, mix all the ingredients at low speed for about 7-8 minutes till the dough has formed into an elastic ball. (If dough seems too dry add a touch of water. If your dough seems a little to wet/sticky add in a touch of flour.)
-Coat a separate bowl with a bit of olive oil and add in the dough ball, turn ball clockwise, so dough is coated with the oil and flip over, turn again clockwise to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (I use a new, clean shower cap) and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
**Baking Tip: I place my dough into an oven that has been warmed to 120 and then shut immediately off - I do the oven warming while the dough is being mixed. Then I leave the oven door cracked a bit until its ready for the dough ball...this gives a warm 'rising' area for the dough that is also draft free (just make sure your oven did not remain too hot before placing dough ball in there! or you will slowly cook your dough!)
-Turn the dough onto a solid work surface sprinkled with flour. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Take one piece of the dough and roll out into a rope approximately 2-3 inches long . Form rope into a circle - joining the two ends and pinch the ends together. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You will need 2 baking sheets.
-Continue forming and shaping the rest of the dough.
-Using 2 shallow pans/dishes, add water to one and the sesame seeds to the other.
Dip or brush the rings with water, then place into the sesame seeds or your favorite topping mixture, making sure all sides are coated. Place back onto baking sheets.
-Cover baking sheets with saran sprayed with cooking spray or with towels and let rise once more for 30 minutes.
-Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 15-18 minutes or till nicely golden brown and crusty. Since there are two baking sheets - rotate the baking sheets on racks halfway through baking time, if needed.
**Recipe Note: Traditional Koulouris are rolled all over in sesame seeds. I used sesame seeds and also my "everything topping' mix on some... both equally great tasting but, the "everything topping mix" is not traditional to this food item.
My "Everything Topping" Mix:
1 Tbs dried onion
1 Tbs dried garlic
1 Tbs poppy-seeds
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp course salt
Recipe by: Dishin With Didi - Koulouria Thessalonikis - Greek Sesame Bread Rings
Photos unless otherwise stated, by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home
Photos Above: Left - Traditional Greek Koulouria and Right - Turkish, Braided Simit
(two above photos:courtesy of google images)