Bread, (“ekmek” in Turkish) is the main staple food in Turkish cuisine. Varieties include: pide ekmeği (flat bread), somun ekmeği (bread loaf which is very soft inside and crispy on the outside), sac ekmeği or yufka ekmeği (paper thin bread made on a large iron convex griddle), tandır ekmeği (thin bread made in a clay oven that is comprised of a hole in the ground and covered with clay inside), lavaş ekmeği which is also a thin type of bread baked in a clay oven and many more regional specialties. Different regions have different breads, hence I am not even able to mention all of them.
In Turkey, in almost every corner, you will run into a bakery where the aroma of bread is filling the whole street. Bakeries bake breads at least twice a day; in the early morning and in the afternoon. Fresh bread is purchased daily in Turkey. In the morning, just before breakfast, one of the family members takes a short trip to the closest bakery and picks up fresh bread. The bread is usually warm when purchased and when it enters the house, it makes its presence known with its delectable aroma.
Bread is consumed not only during breakfast, but also at lunch and at dinner. Every household purchases bread at least once a day. In villages and small towns, some people make their own breads such as sac ekmeği and tandır ekmeği. In this case, they would not purchase bread for lunch or dinner, but only for breakfast. During lunch or dinner if there is stew or soup in the menu, again, there is a rush to the bakery to get the warm and soft bread which is usually used for dipping.
The importance of bread in Turkish cuisine cannot be overstated. It is considered to be peasant food, since it is cheap and filling, nevertheless rich and poor, everyone consumes bread daily.
One of the foods that I miss the most from Turkey is the bread. A few months ago, I decided to start learning how to bake bread myself since I cannot find the same bread in bakeries.
One day, when I was talking to my parents over the msn, they happened to have a relative who used to be a baker visiting. So, I took the opportunity to ask him how to make pide ekmeği (flat bread) at home. He gave me instructions step by step. I did follow his recipe, but my first attempt to make the bread was not successful. In my second attempt, I started to change a few things here and there. The bread was better than the first time, but still not that good. In my third attempt, I made a few more changes in the process and this time it came out really good. Of course still not as good as what you would get in Turkey, but pretty good. Using the oven at home, it is almost impossible to attain the same texture and taste you would get in bakeries in Turkey.
I hope to experiment with more bread recipes and share them with you here. Here is the recipe for the flat bread.
2.5 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup warm water
For Braising and Garnishing:
¼ cup warm milk
1 tbsp sesame seeds (black and white)
Preparation of the Dough:
Using a Stand Mixer:
Place the yeast in a bowl and add warm water. Mix well and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Place the rest of the ingredients for the dough in the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook. Add the yeasty water to the bowl and mix using speed 2 and increasing to 4 and then 6 until the dough is soft. This should not take more than 3 minutes.
Place the yeast in a deep, large bowl and add the warm water. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Place the rest of the ingredients for the dough in the bowl and start kneading. You may need to dip your hands in the water so that the dough does not get too dry. Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft.
Making the Bread:
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or wet cheese cloth. Let the dough sit for 1 hour. The dough will rise during this time. Push the dough down and let it sit for a half hour. Divide the dough into two parts and make a ball with each one. Sprinkle some flour on the dough balls, so that the dough does not stick to your hands. Sprinkle some flour on a baking tray and let these two balls of dough rest for 15-20 minutes.
Flatten each ball with your hands and start stretching it until you reach the desired size. You could also make an oval shape instead of a round shape. With the tip of your fingers, press on the flat dough randomly to make the bread uneven on the surface. Brush with milk and sprinkle sesame seeds.