Savory, Spicy Cookie Rings or Breadsticks: Ka’ak

“Ka’ak has the texture and crunch of a breadstick, but it is ring-shaped and has a crimped edge. A staple of the Aleppian pantry, ka’ak is usually offered to guests when Aleppian Jews serve coffee or tea,” writes Poopa Dweck. These, for me are the best bread-dough savory cookies; a little different and more fragrant than the very common Greek ones. 

I adapted Poopa Dweck’s recipe for the dough I make increasing  the amount of flour to 7 cups, as I work it in the KitchenAid. I also add whole wheat, not just all purpose flour; and of course I use olive oil instead of the ‘vegetable shortening’ the recipe suggests.

With the same, spicy and delicious dough, I make a pie-like stuffed bread with broccoli; you can also stuff the bread with a spanakopita-like mix of spinach, scallions, and herbs.


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I had no sesame the first time I made ka’ak so I substituted sunflower seeds. Both my husband and our friends who tried them couldn’t stop eating them, and they disappeared fast. For the second batch I used both sesame, as well as poppy seeds and ground walnuts, but also sunflower seeds again, which seemed to complement ideally the cookie’s flavor and crunch.


For about 64 cookies


1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons aniseeds



2 tablespoons coriander seeds



2 tablespoons fennel seeds



1 ½ teaspoon mahleb



5 cups all-purpose flour



2 cups whole-wheat flour



2 packages instant dry yeast



1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin



½ teaspoon ground pepper



2 tablespoons semi-coarse sea salt or kosher salt



1 tablespoons sugar



2/3 cup olive oil



About 2 ½ cups slightly warm water, or more as needed



2 egg yolks, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water



About 1 cup or more sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nigella (black sesame), poppy seeds, ground walnuts, as needed.


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In a clean coffee grinder or in the blender add the aniseeds, coriander, fennel seeds and mahleb. Note that the mahleb is quite hard and needs to be grinded in a coffee grinder, while the other spices can be coarsely ground in a blender.


In the bowl of a standing mixer toss the flours with the yeast, the cumin, the pepper, the salt and the sugar. Stir well with a spatula to sift the flours, then add the aniseeds and the other freshly ground spices and stir again to mix. Pour in the olive oil.


Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the dough hook. With the motor running in slow speed, pour in the water slowly, in the side of the bowl, and increase slightly the motor speed. Work the dough for 5-6 minutes, adding a little more water if needed, to get a soft, wet, and slightly sticky dough.


Oil a large bowl and a piece of plastic film. With the spatula transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, cover with the film (oiled-side down) and either let rise for about 1 ½ hours or transfer to the refrigerator and let the dough rise slowly overnight. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let stand for 1 hour before you proceed further.


Divide the dough into quarters. Roll one quarter into a 15-inch (38 cm) log then slice into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into about 4 inch (10 cm) snakes. Shape each snake into a circle, overlapping and sticking the ends. Alternatively, you can just form 4-inch-long breadsticks. Continue shaping the other 3 pieces of dough.


Dip the rings or breadsticks into the egg-wash and then into the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or any other single or combination of nuts and seeds you choose. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake at 400 F (200 C) for about 20 minutes or until all the ka’ak are baked.


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Lower the oven temperature to 250 F (120 C) and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the ka’ak are completely dry and crisp.


Let cool completely, and store in airtight containers.




3 thoughts on “Savory, Spicy Cookie Rings or Breadsticks: Ka’ak

  1. I discovered by experimentation a similar recipe.
    Starting from a kosher recipe book, that gave no too much detail.

    In the book the ingredients are wheat flour, vegetable oil, yeast, anise, salt and water for the dough and the sesame seeds and egg to garnish.

    Those are the ingredients, certainly. Here is hard to find the mahlab, but also fenel, corianders seeds and cumin are used to each one taste
    Here is my, not so original recipe.

    1. The book recipe used too much oil. I discovered to poor the oil in the flour until it feels like the pie dough. The olive oil adds a great flavor. I also use it. And depending on the quality of the flour you can mix it with semola or semolina as called in the US.

    2. The book recipe didn’t grind the anise seeds. It is essential to grind them, although it can also have some ungrinded too.

    3. The original recipe used baking powder too, but there is no need for it. We just need yeast (I use dry yeast activated in a small amount of warm water with a tea spoon of sugar)

    4. Instead of water, one can use an anise seed infusion.

    The general rule in making dough is that it always needs the half of the flour weigh in liquid.

    Some people like to add the liquid to the flour, others like to add the flour to the liquid. It is matter of taste how to mix them.
    The later is better for an orbital stand mixer.

    It is important to let them rise well to develop those bubbles that give the crunchy and porous texture.
    Also not to bake with high temperature, 160C-170C is a good option to let them cook well inside and not to burn outside.
    Because this dough is quite oily watch them or they can burn very quickly.

    I just use sesame seeds to cover it, because I like the traditional recipe and I like to soak them in Turkish coffee.

    Some people like to eat them with zaatar.

    Try to avoid to use shortening, even if it is not hydrogenated, it is still saturated fat, and not healthy.

    The commercial kaak is only use oil no other fats.

    I will make some with walnuts, in your style but with the dough just with oil. It seem a good idea, you like to experiment too.

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