Biberli ekmek

NYC bagels meet Antakya’s biberli ekmek

In the midst of my teaching and master’s classes, I sometimes relax in front of the TV and usually watch NHK World, the international version of Japanese national TV channel. There are great programs related to food and travel. At night though before going to bed, I watch a couple of episodes of  “Suits” on Netflix. I have always been a huge fan of legal shows, since the very first time I’ve watched Ally McBeal.

In Suits when they feature the main characters eating bagel from a street cart near their work place, I often find myself craving bagels and cream cheese. Since they are not widely available in Turkey, I’ve decided to try making them at home a few weeks back. I’ve read a few recipes and decided on the recipe I’ve learned from Chef Karen from FCI who taught a bread baking class about 12 years ago. I was very happy with the results, but I still need to perfect my skills especially in the folding and shaping department.  This morning I’ve made them again by slightly altering the recipe and adding grains to the dough. Since I had the oven going at such a high heat, I’ve also tried my hand at making Antakya’s famous “biberli ekmek” (flatbread with red pepper paste mixture). The first time I had this bread was when I visited Antakya around the same time I took the bread class. It was my first time travelling alone and I found myself socializing with the locals so much more than if I had gone there with a friend. I tasted many different dishes and learned how to make some. It was one of my favorite culinary trips, where I met a lot of great people and ate some of the most delicious food. The first morning, at breakfast I had this bread and fell in love with it immediately.  It has a crunchy crust, and slightly spicy topping with sesame and onions that adds a depth of flavor and nuttiness. I think for your next breakfast you should definitely give this bread a try. Alternatively it would be a delightful snack to serve during your next cocktail party. Cheers!

Biberli Ekmek (Flatbread with pepper paste)

For the dough
100 ml (≅3.4 fl oz.) lukewarm milk
100 ml (≅3.4 fl oz.) lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
5 gr (≅1 tbsp) instant dry yeast
450 gr (≅1 lbs) all purpose flour
100 ml (≅3.4 fl oz.) olive oil

For the topping*
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp rep pepper paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes (make sure there are no seeds)
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp nigella seeds (optional)
½ cup olive oil

In a bowl combine the milk, water, sugar and yeast. Wait 5 minutes until the yeast starts foaming. Then add the flour little by little and knead until gluten starts forming. Finally add the olive oil in small amounts and continue kneading until you have soft dough. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a piece of cloth. Keep in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough is doubled in size.

Meanwhile prepare the topping by combining all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If you feel like it is a bit dry you may want to add a little more olive oil but don’t let it become too runny.

Once the dough is ready. Take a large sheet pan and brush all over including the sides with olive oil. Take the dough and place on the pan and spread with your hands. Don’t use a rolling pin, the dough should be soft enough to be able to spread just by hands (kind of like stretching a pizza dough). Then smear the topping all over until the edges, in a thin layer. Pop in an oven that is preheated to 180C (350F) Bake for 20-25 minutes, the crust should turn a golden color. After taking out of the oven let for 10 minutes, then cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of hot tea. Afiyet olsun!!!

*If you notice there is no salt in this recipe, because the traditional tomato and red pepper pastes in Turkey have salt in them. After preparing your mix, taste and see if you might want to add some salt.