Every once in a while our parents would take us to a local Greek bakery to help select a dessert to bring to a dinner party or gathering. Usually they would make and bring along their own galaktoboureko, baklava or melomakarona, but occasionally our parents would be too busy (because they were also bringing along some homemade spanakopita or keftedes) to do so. We would walk into the bakery with them and be overwhelmed with the sights and smells of all the delicious Greek desserts, breads and snacks. Our parents would typically ask us to choose a variety of small, individual serving size cakes (glyka or γλυκά), often 8 – 12 in a box. This was so exciting…shopping for sweets! We were sure to select vanilla cakes, kok, cream-filled pastries, chocolate mousses and anything else that made our box of cakes a sight to behold. The only thing better than selecting the pastries was receiving these boxes of glyka when we had company over. Well before dessert was served, all the kids would sneak into the kitchen, snip the ribbon which tied the box closed, lift the lid with great anticipation, excited to see what joy lay within the box, and then quickly call dibs on the particular piece of dessert that we wanted.
After selecting our desserts at the bakery, our parents would invite us to select a snack (but not a dessert) that we wanted to munch on immediately. Sometimes we would choose the bakery’s cheese or spinach pies, but more often than not we would choose a kouloura. Kouloures are nothing more than rings of bread, coated in sesame seeds…but they are perfect. In a city known for its bagels, some might consider kouloures to be their Greek counterpart.
Our parents realized how much we loved kouloures and so (of course) they started to make them themselves at home. Slightly different than the ones from the bakery, both in appearance and taste, their version is also absolutely delicious. When it was time for our parents to roll our their dough and then create the ring shapes we would get very, very excited, and ask if we could help roll them out. They would allow us to of course, and as the rings of dough were placed on the cookie sheet ready for baking, we would call dibs on which one was ours, just as we did with the desserts.
There are a few things to know when working with yeast. First, be sure to check your expiration date. If your yeast has expired, you probably shouldn’t even bother using it. It won’t make you sick, but it won’t do what it is meant to do and that will leave you with un-risen dough; a very sad sight after waiting patiently for a few hours. The other important thing to note is that you can actually kill your yeast if you mix it with water which is too hot. Use lukewarm water as indicated in the recipe. Lukewarm water is water which you can keep your finger in comfortably, while feeling the warmth.
Getting sesame seeds to stick and stay on dough is sometimes tricky, and these kouloures typically have A LOT of sesame seeds. Our parents use the same technique that they use for their lagana recipe. By dipping the kouloures into a mixture of cornstarch and water, a film of “glue” is created on the surface of the dough and the sesame seeds stick really well.
One of our daughters is not crazy about sesame seeds so when we make a batch of kouloures we usually keep a few naked. You can also get creative and use poppy seeds or a mixture of sesame and poppy seeds. Not traditional, but still delicious.
These kouloures are most delicious the day that they are made, but kept in a sealed plastic bag, they remain fresh for several days. When they are a few days old we like to toast them. This make a nice, crisp bread which is great for snacking as is, or as a base for a sandwich. Truth is however that the kouloures rarely last that long.
Mia Kouppa: Kouloures
- 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (approximately 550 grams)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast (approximately 8 grams)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil For the topping:
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour and the salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes until the surface bubbles.
- Add the flour/salt and the olive oil to the bowl of the stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment knead the dough for approximately 7 – 8 minutes at medium speed. You will create a ball of dough.
- Grease the bottom of a large bowl with a little bit of olive oil and transfer the dough into this bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rise for approximately 2 – 4 hours, or until it is doubled in size.
- Knead the dough for a few minutes by hand and then divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Taking one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a log and then join the two ends together in order to make a doughnut shape. Place each formed kouloura onto a parchment lined baking sheet (you will need 2 large baking sheets for all 10 kouloures).
- Then, in a medium sized bowl combine the 2 cups lukewarm water with the cornstarch and mix well until cornstarch dissolves. In another bowl, add the sesame seeds.
- Take one kouloura at a time and dip it into the water and then into the sesame seeds, being sure to get seeds on both sides of the dough. Return back to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining kouloures.
- Once all the kouloures have been covered with sesame seeds, cover the baking trays loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake your kouloures in the middle rack of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until the kouloura is lightly golden brown on top. Enjoy!