Monday, May 10, 2010

Ka'k or Kahk (Middle Eastern Spice Bracelets)

Who would have thought that Middle Eastern bakers would find a culinary gem right in the pit of a cherry, that when dried in the sun and ground to a powder produces a spice,mahlab which gives breads an almond-like flavor.Mahlab comes from a tree called St.Lucy's cherry(Prunus Mahaleb).It is a large shrub-like tree that grows primarily in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean and is used exclusively for mahlab production.To make mahlab, the pits of this cherry are dried in the sun till golden-brown then pounded to a powder form.Mahlab is used to give a sweet almond flavor to candies, cookies, pastries, and breads throughout the Middle East.

The following recipe is mentioned in the medieval cooking manual,Kittab al-Wulsa Illa' L-Habib and is still being used today.Ka'k or Kahk are bracelet-shaped breads that are flavored with coriander and sprinkled with mahlab.They can eaten for breakfast or as a snack.They are perfect the next day heated a little and dipped in olive oil.

Yield:14-17 (varies depending on the size & thickness)
4 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 c butter(melted) or ghee
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c white sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. mahlab

1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.Add the coriander, cumin, and salt and mix with the flour.
2. In a small dish, combine the yeast and the sugar and add a little lukewarm water, enough to cover.Allow it to bubble ( maybe 3-5 minutes).
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the yeast and butter or ghee, if using.Using your hands work the mixture into a dough.Add a little more lukewarm water if dough is a little dry to help it bind.Knead dough for 10-15 minutes.
4. Take a walnut size piece of dough and roll into a thin "cigar"shape about 4 inches long, then bring the ends together and press them firmly to make a bracelet and set aside.Repeat with the remaining dough.If they are not even don't worry about it, different sizes make them more interesting.
5. Lightly oil a baking sheet.Place the spice bracelets on it and lightly brush them with the beaten egg.Sprinkle spice bracelets with the sesame seeds.Leave in a warm place for 2 hours to rise.
6.Preheat oven to 350F. Sprinkle spice bracelets with mahlab and place in the oven for 4o minutes.
7.After removing the spice bracelets from the heat, leave them to cool and become slightly hard or you can eat them right away after slightly cooled.
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