When I traveled to Istanbul I was totally enchanted. Aside from the dreamy, dusty city, the food was fantastic and totally vegan friendly. But one item in particular captured my attention, probably because they were so ubiquitous and affordable: "simits," these round, kinda-crispy, sesame covered breads that you can find everywhere. Vendors sold them everywhere out of large baskets, and you could see students, tourists, and little old ladies eating them happily with butter or cheese and a cup of the ubiquitous sweet tea.
Here in Berlin, with a substantial Turkish population we also have plenty of simits. I could buy one for less than a euro at any given shop or at market places, where they are piled into huge stacks alongside other Turkish breads. (I often eat them with fancy mustard like a pretzel, as a German twist.) However, I really want to make them myself! First, because I want to make a bunch to eat all week since they keep well, and second, because I want to have a handy recipe for those times I'm not in Berlin or Istanbul, or to share on the vegan interwebs.
So the other day, I interrogated a vendor for his secret recipe, as carefully as possible given my crap German. It went something like this:
Me: Hello, these are simits, yes? I have allergic. Do they eggs inside have?
Vendor: No, naturally not, no eggs.
Me: Do they milk have?
Vendor: No, these are simits, they aren't made with milk.
Me: So, then, water, flour, and.... yeast? Or bake powder? I want have cooked them at my house.
Vendor: Very complicated recipe, better just to buy some from me, all fresh.
Hmmph. The woman at the store downstairs (which also sells them) gave me a similar run-around, and seemed a little pissed that I wouldn't just buy one. So, before alienating more people, now I've resorted to baking small batches of recipes I find online, and so far I've reached a few conclusions:
1. Definitely yeast and not baking powder.
2. The outside is brushed or dipped in something sticky to make all the sesame seeds stick, and its not soymilk.
Above you see the first attempt, which was definitely tasty with black tea but not quite right and missing the requisite deep brown crust. I have a feeling that it could be a few drops of pomengranate syrup diluted in water, from some vague references. Anyways, the simit mystery is not solved yet, but I will keep at it, until I can enjoy a lovely vegan treat with tea and soy margarine without leaving the house. (Lofty goals there, I admit it.)
Well, if any of you readers are aware of a perfect simit recipe out there, let me know. If not, I'll keep laboring after them myself, which I'll admit, is not all that bad of a way to spend an afternoon.