Ka'ak Kaak Bread Recipe-Confident in the Kitchen-Jean Miller

Kaak (Ka’ak)

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Kaak (Ka’ak) is so much fun to make. Our friend Cynthia shared her great aunt’s recipe for this Lebanese “street food.” It has a unique undertone from the subtle addition of spices, including mahlab (mah-lab), which is ground cherry pits. If you cannot find it in a Mediterranean market, it is easy to order online.

Learning about this bread has been a delight. In fact, when traveling from the airport to my hotel in Sydney, Australia, I fell into conversation with my taxi driver, who told me that his mother filled their Ka’ak with flavorful fillings such as chopped dates or nut paste. Now I am eager to make that version, too.

Kaak (Ka’ak) Recipe

  • Makes: 72
  • Calories per: 44
  • Active Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
WHAT YOU NEED WHAT TO DO WHY
  • ½ cup warm tap water (100°F)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
Proof yeast: Confirm water temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Swirl water, sugar, and yeast together in the bowl of a heavy-duty free-standing mixer; rest until foamy (~5 minutes). Meanwhile… Warm sugar water helps activate the yeast, but over 120°F risks killing it.
  • 6 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup whole milk (not raw)
In a 1-quart tri-ply saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk to cool the butter. Confirm the mixture is less than 110°F before pouring it into the yeast mixture. Raw (unpasteurized) milk inhibits yeast. Hot butter kills yeast.
  • 20 ounces (4 cups) bread flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground anise
  • ⅛ teaspoon mahlab
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • ⅛ teaspoon cardamom, ground
Place the mixer bowl on a scale; weigh in the flour and sprinkle with remaining ingredients. With dough hook in hand, give 10-15 big stirs to jump-start the mixing. Attach the hook; mix on the lowest level for 4 minutes. Pause as needed to push the dough towards the hook to keep engaged. Weighing flour produces consistent results. Bread flour is high in structure building gluten; salt tightens that gluten.
  With the silicone spatula, release the dough from the hook, dropping the dough back into the bowl. Shape into a neat ball and cover with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature (70-75°F) until doubled in volume (2-3 hours).  
  • Parchment or 3 teaspoons butter or avocado oil
Line or evenly coat 3 half sheet pans; set aside. Place oven rack just below center. Preheat to 350°F Convection (verify with an oven thermometer). Higher than 350°F risks burning the rich crust. Internal oven thermostats are often improperly calibrated.
  • Up to 1 tablespoon bread flour to dust fingertips, only if absolutely needed
Shaping: Snip off 1-inch diameter balls of dough. With fingertips, lightly roll each into a ½-inch diameter rope, 6 inches long with tapered tips. Fold in half and twist. Pinch tips together and turn under to prevent untwisting. Alternatively, shape each into a wreath, overlapping tips by 1 inch; gently pressing to seal. In either case, space 1 inch apart on sheet pans (24 pieces per sheet). Using excess flour at this stage can interfere with shaping. Dough tightens with handling. Working with small pieces allows quick shaping with minimal handling while the dough is still relaxed.
  • 1 egg (any size)
    1 tablespoon milk or water
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds

Egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk egg and milk together until loose and frothy; brush thoroughly over each twist/wreath. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake 1 sheet at a time until amber (15-18 minutes). Cool thoroughly before bagging.

An egg wash gives the baked crust a lovely sheen.

 

     

Additional Testing Notes: 1/3 cup room temperature mild olive oil may be substituted for the butter; the resulting dough will be a little sticky. For a heavier spiced version of the bread, use 1/2 teaspoon each anise and mahlab, and 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, and cardamom.

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