My mother was an unbelievable baker. Everything she baked was always perfect. Pies..incredible! Breads…beautiful! And when she baked breads, she would always get more than the recipe specified she would get! My sister would joke that it was the loaves and fishes! She never owned a set of measuring cups or spoons. She would measure liquids and dry ingredients in the same kitchen cup. Usually that cup was 10 or 12 ounces. She measured her teaspoons and tablespoons with her kitchen silverware. I would always say to her "How do you get those results, when your measurements are so off?" Her reasoning was that she used the same cup, so that her proportions were correct. She never really followed a recipe. She always knew how the dough was supposed to feel, whether it was a pie crust or yeast bread. Her pies had the flakiest crusts and her breads always had a beautiful appearance and lovely crumb! A true gift! She would always say, "learn to feel the dough". When I first married, I wouldn't even make my own pie crust because of frequent failures! In those days, it was Pillsbury for me all the way. My first attempt at yeast bread…came out like a brick!! Clearly, I did not inherit my mothers gift. But something happened through the years and I finally got it! The feel! I don't know when..I guess practice makes perfect! One of her specialties was this recipe for "Ka′ak". Traditionally, Ka′ak is formed into rings. In our family, my grandmother and mom always made them in figure eights. These have a wonderful flavor because of the anise seed and mahleb. Mahleb is made from the kernel of the black cherry pit. It is used in middle eastern cooking. It imparts a really subtle flavor and the scent is lovely. The taste is between bitter almond and cherry. I get mine in a middle eastern grocery but, you can also get it from penzeys.com. My family serves these with powdered sugar on top ( The americanization of the pastry ). I understand that in Lebanon they serve these with a syrup.
8 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon anise seed
1/2 teaspoon crushed mahleb (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 pkg. yeast
- Mix flour, sugar, anise seed, mahleb, and salt.
- Heat butter and milk to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in milk and add to flour mixture.
- Add eggs and knead well. Cover and let rest for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Punch down and cut into pieces and roll to shape into rings or figure eights, placing on baking sheet as you work. When baking sheet is full, cover with cloth and let rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes and browned on the bottom, then place under broiler until tops are light brown.
My mothers rule…Never use all your flour when you start to mix. Add as needed. When I make these I start with 7 cups and add as I knead the dough. I rarely use the whole 8 cups.
|Milk and butter heating|
|When milk-butter mixture is lukewarm add yeast.|
|Then mix into the dry ingredients, along with the eggs, until a dough forms.|
|Knead until smooth and place into bowl to rise.|
|After dough is risen, punch down and cut off small pieces.|
|Roll into long rope.|
|Form into a figure eight. Place onto baking sheet.|
|Ready for the oven.|
|Breakfast! Perfect with my cup of tea.|