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A simit is a circular bread encrusted in sesame seeds. Though it is most popular in Turkey, similar versions of the bread are common in areas such as the Middle East, Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia. It is a popular street food, but is also served for breakfast with accompaniments such as yogurt, jam, and cheese.
The particular texture, shape, and flavor of simit vary depending on the region. Some forms of the bread are crunchy, while others are chewy. The shapes of the bread can also be different, from the traditional circle to braid. In general, simit is usually circular and chewy, characteristics which have led to the bread being called a “Turkish bagel” in the United States of America.
As street food, simits are served by vendors who either carry the bread on a tray on their head or from a special trolley. The merchants call out as they walk the street, advertising their wares. Since simit is usually baked all day, they will often shout claims that the bread is fresh.
Forms of bread similar to simit are available all over Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There is the Greek koulouri, a Serbian version called devrek, Bulgarian gevrek, and Macedonian gjevrek. There is also a Polish version called obwarzanek that is poached in boiling water rather than dipped in molasses and water as simit usually is. The bread is for the most part quite similar throughout all of these regions, though there tends to be at least a few variations in recipes and preparation.
Traditional ingredients in simit bread include flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, and egg. Most recipes will also include sesame seeds and molasses for the crust. It is made by sifting together the dry ingredients, adding the wet parts, and then folding it all together into dough. Pieces of the dough are then rolled into long shapes that look similar to cigars. They are usually twisted before they are joined at the ends in order to make a circle. Sometimes the dough is formed into a braid.
Once the simit dough is formed into its final shape, the pieces are dipped in molasses water and dredged in sesame seeds. The pieces are then placed on a cookie sheet and baked to a golden brown. Some simit recipes exclude the yeast and sugar, or include olive oil. Other versions use milk instead of molasses water to dip the dough.