Friday, June 25, 2010

KOULOURIA

Koulouria are a very popular street food all over Greece. They are made in commercial bakeries, and are sold as a morning or mid morning snack. By 1:00 pm or so, vendors are sold out. I guess you can say koulouria are a street food with pedigree, since there is historical evidence that they were sold in the streets of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, as early as 800 to 900 CE. (They are discussed in an army manual of the 9th century. See my entry about them here). If you are far away from Greece and miss the crunchy, sesame taste of koulouria, here is a recipe you can try that will ease your nostalgia.

Ingredients:

3 cups bread flour plus more for dusting
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and the dough
1 cup sesame seeds (you may need more)
one medium sized bowl filled with water at room temperature



  • Place the yeast, sugar, salt and 1/3 cup of oil in the bowl of your mixer. Add the water and mix everything with a wooden spoon, stirring until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Add one cup of flour, place the dough hook on your mixer and start mixing on low speed. Add the rest of the flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Keep mixing until you have a smooth dough. You'll know it's ready if it does not adhere to the sides of the bowl as it's being mixed.
  • Remove the dough to a large bowl that has been greased with vegetable oil. Grease the top of the dough ball with vegetable oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then cover it with a kitchen towel.
  • Place it in a spot that is free of drafts and let it rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  • When the dough has doubled in size punch it down, cover it again in the same manner, and let it rise until it's doubled in size once again, about 1 hour.

  • Punch the dough down once more, remove it from the bowl and cut it into chunks about one inch square.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour on your working surface, and roll each piece of dough into a strip. Line up the strips and sprinkle flour over them until they are lightly covered.
  • Have the following ready: a bowl filled with water, a clean dish towel, and a flat pan filled with the sesame seeds.
  • Dip each strip of dough into the bowl of water and lightly dry it on the towel. Dry it just enough to remove excess liquid. The dough needs to be somewhat wet.

  • While the strip of dough is still wet, drop it in the pan with the sesame seeds and roll it around until it's coated in seeds.

  • Cover all the strips in sesame seeds.
  • Twist some of the strips into round shapes and pinch the ends together to make rings.  Why should koulouria have a round shape? Look at the picture below:
They are easy to stack and easy to carry and sell.   If you have a  few wooden dowels you're in business.  Merchants have carried them around in this manner for centuries. 
  • Although koulouria are traditionally made into ring shapes, I like to make both strips and rings. Strips take less space on the baking sheets, allowing me to fit more on each sheet and finish the job faster. I've been given written permission by my mother to do this! If your mother objects, and you must be really traditional, make ring shapes only.

  • Place on sheets lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 425° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown.
  • Koulouria should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Serve them warm. They taste best if consumed the same day they are made. Now , unless you are feeding a crowd, you won't be able to eat them all in one day. Store them in an airtight container and enjoy them during the week. They tend to get really crunchy if they are left over, but believe me, they still taste great and can be enjoyed as bread sticks.

4 comments:

  1. Greek Girl from QueensJune 26, 2010 at 7:23 AM

    Hi Ana - This is, as you know, very dear to my heart, and I must thank you for posting this recipe.

    I cannot wait to try this recipe out. I would love to visit Greece and buy some koulouria from one of the many street vendors. And one day, I will get there.

    In the meantime, thank you so much for sharing the recipe, the history of these beautiful breads, and the great photos.

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  2. Greek Girl from QueensJune 26, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    Ahhh...koulouria...or, 'kloothya,' as my nuna would've called these as well as the smaller/sweeter/crumblier cookies, or koulourakia).

    Thank you so much for the recipe, Ana. Can't wait to try to make a batch myself. When I visit Greece, hopefully sooner rather than later, I will be able to sample the authentic version from a street vendor. Till then, this recipe, these photos and what you've written about them has delighted me no end, and made my day that much brighter.

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  3. Hi Ana - have just found your blog - fabulous - am going to make these this weekend. I am also going to link you to my latest blog - Athenian Love as I have had an enquiry for a recipe - hope you don't mind. Francesca

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  4. Can't wait to make these for my greek husband, he loves these when we go to Greece!

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