I learned the best tips and tricks to make simit from the best in the game
This beloved braided cookie goes by many names — simit, khalkha, kekhke, and more. Most Armenians know this sweet treat as “simit,” not to be confused with the Turkish sesame-crusted bagel. These are my favorite cookies and it was about time I learned to make them myself.
I went to my local Armenian church’s “cooking in the khohanots” session to learn how to make this dessert from the legend herself, Siran, who is our go-to baker and iconic powerhouse in the kitchen. Legend has it she once baked 140 loaves of choreg for an Armenian picnic, which I certainly believe to be true.
Siran learned to make simit in our Holy Martyrs church in Bayside when she was around my age, so it was only fitting for her to pass the torch and lead a baking session to her eager and hungry students. With time, she advised, it gets easier and better, and soon I could feed our community with sweet treats.
We made two variations of this cookie — a salty, circle version topped with nigella seeds and a sweet, braided option sprinkled with white sesame seeds. Much to my surprise, both varieties are surprisingly easy to make and are bound to be the perfect companion to your late-night chai.
Here’s how to make this go-to Armenian favorite:
We started by adding melted butter, milk, and vegetable oil into a medium bowl. We then added the sugar, salt, and baking powder to the mix. Next, we gradually poured flour into the bowl while kneading the dough by hand. You don’t need to sift the flour, according to Siran.
Ideally, you should let the dough sit for 30 minutes while the oven warms up to 350 degrees. We separated the dough into hand-sized lumps, rolling them out into “snakes.” These pieces should be about an inch wide.
After rolling out these snakes evenly, we wrapped them into open circle shapes. We placed the rings on our baking trays and brushed the egg wash over each piece. Don’t forget to paint the sides of each cookie.
We then sprinkled nigella seeds onto each cookie, making sure each one got a healthy dose.
The cookies should bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
While we waited, we worked on the sweet simit — my personal favorite...
We started by adding room-temperature butter to the sugar and water in a medium bowl. We then added the vegetable oil, vanilla, and baking powder to the mix. Some bakers like to add mahleb to the recipe, or the spice derived from cherry stones. Just like the salty version, we poured the flour into the mixture gradually while kneading the dough — which many of the students agreed was basically a form of therapy.
Up until this point, the process of making this batch was almost identical — until we shaped the dough. For the sweet version, we rolled out one-inch long pieces and twisted them to make braids.
I couldn’t quite master this shape at first, but Siran assured me that with practice it will come naturally. I quickly learned that I should roll out a thicker piece, about double the size of my finger, to create a larger cookie — one that could be dipped into a coffee mug.
We then brushed each braid and sprinkled them with nigella seeds, baking the tray for 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cookies cool before enjoying them.
It was impossible to let the cookies cool considering the heavenly, buttery smell wafting from the kitchen. Both simits were baked to perfection, and even though the shapes weren’t perfect, they tasted delicious.
The real stamp of approval, however, was asking my baba, Avedis, to try both versions. Miraculously, he loved both, though he preferred the salty cookie over the sweet one.
I always thought making simit would be complicated, reserved for seasoned bakers and Armenian pastry experts. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this recipe was. All you really need is flour, butter, eggs, sugar — and the patience to shape each cookie.