Ka’ik (KAH-ick) are known as Easter cookies and are traditionally made during the Easter season. There are many versions of ka’ik, some biscuit-like and others bread-like. This recipe is the latter, which is fragrant with spices and subtly sweet. The ka’ik freezes well, or keep at room temperature covered tightly and eat within a couple of days. But there is nothing like ka’ik fresh from the oven.
FOR THE SWEET BREAD:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup (180 g) clarified butter
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) whole milk
5 1/2 cups (715 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon mahleb, freshly ground
2 tablespoons anise seed, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil, to grease the bowl
FOR THE ROSE WATER MILK GLAZE:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) half-and-half
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon rose water
FOR THE SWEET BREAD:
1. Proof the yeast by dissolving it in 1/4 cup of warm water with a tablespoon of the sugar. After about 10 minutes, the yeast will activate, becoming creamy and foamy.
2. Warm the clarified butter and milk in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave just until the butter is melted.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, or by hand in a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining ¾ cup sugar, flour, mahleb, anise, nutmeg, sesame seeds and salt. Slowly add the butter and milk and mix on low speed or by hand until dough forms. Increase the speed on the mixer to knead the dough for five minutes, or by hand on the counter for 10 minutes.
4. Lightly oil a large bowl with the olive oil. Coat the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then a clean kitchen towel. Set the dough in a warm spot to rise for 2 hours.
5. To create a warm setting for the balls to rise again, place a kitchen towel on the counter and cover with plastic wrap. Divide the dough into 18 pieces by cutting or squeezing off balls about 2 ½ inches wide (the size can be larger or smaller, to your liking). Place the balls on this about 2 inches apart, cover with more plastic wrap and another towel. Let the balls rise for ½ hour.
6. Heat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center of the oven. If using a new ka’ik mold, lightly brush it with oil.
7. Using all of your strength, press the ball of dough into the mold firmly with the palm of your hand numerous times without lifting the dough to get the imprint on the top of the dough. Carefully remove the flattened dough and place face-up on an ungreased sheet pan. Carefully remove and place face-up on an ungreased sheet pan. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, baking six at a time. If using your hands to shape the dough, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand. Pinch the edges five or six times around the circle and poke with the tines of a fork over the top. Bake one sheet pan at a time if using two pans.
8. Bake the ka’ik for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
9. Make the glaze while ka’ik bakes. Heat the butter, half and half, sugar and rose water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for one minute, then remove from heat. Pour the glaze into a dish wide enough to dip the ka’ik in.
10. Glaze the ka’ik while they are still warm. Dip each sweet bread face-down into the glaze and place on a cooling rack to dry.
11. Keep the ka’ik well-covered or in an airtight container for up to three days. Eat them at room temperature, toasted, or warm them in a low oven.