simit

Recipe Corner: A Savory (and Easy) Simit Recipe for All Seasons

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Photos and recipe by the late Mrs. Makruhi Movsesyan* courtesy of Robyn Kalajian, a retired culinary teacher and food blogger at thearmeniankitchen.com, the essential Armenian recipe and cooking blog that has become an Armenian-American treasure.

Simit is a tasty sesame crusted bread (cookie, biscuit, or breadstick) that can be enjoyed for breakfast or at any time of day. Robyn Kalajian posted several simit recipes at
thearmeniankitchen.com, but decided to make her favorite – Deegeen (Mrs.) Makruhi Movsesyan’s savory version — for a special holiday event. Deegeen Makruhi, who recently passed away, was a long-time member of the Women’s Guild at St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida. She presented her simit recipe at a church guild meeting in 2013. “Her recipe,” says Robyn, “takes little time to make (no yeast is involved), and has a good texture. Deegeen Makruhi’s simit can be served at any time, but especially at the holidays and for special occasions.”

Mrs. Makruhi Movsesyan

“Deegeen Makruhi was very talented and skilled. She was from the old-school of traditional Armenian cookery in that she did not, I repeat, she did not use measuring tools,” Robyn adds. “Instead, she relied on using basic kitchenware, such as coffee mugs and a variety of spoons. While watching the simit being made that day at our church, I was reminded of my beloved grandmother who used her hands as a measuring cups, and a watchful eye as she added ingredients to the mixing bowl. This type of food preparation, in an Armenian kitchen, is known as ‘achkee chop’ – where a recipe’s success is determined simply by eye and feel – a method which, by the way, takes many years to master.”

Deegeen (Mrs.) Makruhi Movsesyan, left, in 2013 at the October Women’s Guild meeting at St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida

Simit is light with a buttery texture; in combination with sesame seeds, it will give your mouth a luxurious treat. Many Armenians grew up enjoying simit made by their mothers, aunts and grandmothers at the holidays. It is a traditional treat, and this savory recipe from the late Deegeen Makruhi is a treasure to be enjoyed for years. Simit can be frozen for future use, storing nicely for up to a month, so you can make them in advance and freeze them in anticipation of a colder day or for a group of unexpected guests. Serve simit with coffee or tea, fresh seasonal fruit or an assortment of dried fruit and cheeses. Robyn’s husband Doug suggests serving simit with a plate of Armenian string cheese, olives, and basturma to create a memorable presentation.

Simit

*Makruhi Movsesyan, 96, of Deerfield Beach, Florida passed away on February 17, 2020. She was born in Istanbul, Turkey on January 12, 1924. She was a very devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to many. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends. She was a longtime member of St. David Armenian Apostolic Church in Boca Raton, Florida. See: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/deerfield-beach-fl/makruhi-movsesyan-9040399.

Simit (adapted from Makruhi Movsesyan’s original recipe)

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Ingredients:

1 cup corn oil
1 cup milk (regular, 2% — or even skim milk will work)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground mahlab (see note below)
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground anise seed
6 cups flour

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten
Garnish: Toasted sesame seeds and/or black sesame seeds, optional
Makes about 40 (1-oz.) pieces.

Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (except for egg wash and garnishing options) to form a workable, non-sticky dough.

Note: If you have a food scale, pinch off some dough and weigh 1-ounce pieces, rolling them into balls.  If you don’t have a food scale, pinch off pieces about the size of a golf ball.  On an un-floured work surface, roll each ball by hand into a nine-inch rope. Twist each rope into a simple braid and place it on an ungreased baking sheet. These simit don’t spread, so you can place them fairly close together.

An easy alternative is to divide the dough into 4 balls. Roll each ball on a lightly floured work surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, to about a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Using a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or knife, cut out 10-evenly-sized ‘sticks’ to yield 40 pieces in all.

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or black sesame seeds, if desired.  Bake at 375 °F for about 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) or until golden brown.

Note: Mahlab is the dried “heart” of the cherry pit. It can be purchased in most Middle Eastern stores. If you cannot find it, you can omit it; the taste will be slightly different, but still delicious.

References:

https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2013/11/baking-simit-achkee-chop.html
https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2010/11/simit.html
https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2019/12/
https://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2019/12/a-quick-and-easy-simit-recipe.html
https://mirrorspectator.com/2017/05/10/recipe-corner-armenian-simit-cookies/
http://thegutsygourmet.net/simichor.html
https://hyethymecafe.blogspot.com/2011/02/simit-sesame-cookie.html