What is Yemeni ka’ak?
Ka’ak is a traditional Yemeni brioche but it also defines different bakery or pastry recipes available in the Arab world.
Ka’ak, kaak, kaâk, kahqa (Arabic: كعك) means cake in Arabic, and can refer to several types of baked goods or pastries produced in the Arab world and the Middle East.
Halfway between a biscuit and a brioche, Yemeni ka’ak, prepared with yeast, is airy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. Its handcrafted flower shape immediately caught my attention.
The traditional form of Yemeni ka’ak is not complicated to shape and offers a very aesthetic result.
Different versions of ka’aks around the world
In Morocco, kaak is prepared with flour and oil, and delicately flavored with anise, ground fennel, sesame seeds, sometimes almonds, cardamom, and cinnamon. It is slightly sweet, dry, crisp, and typically comes in the shape of a sun. Each kaak bears the name of the city it comes from as in kaak of Fès.
In Tunisia, there is a version of kaak known as el warka or Tunisian anbar kaak, which remains white after baking.
In Lebanon, kaak bi semsim, a ring-shaped Arabic loaf also known as Arabic Bread Ring, looks a bit like a brioche. There is also kaak al Abbass, a kind of crunchy biscuit. Another version of kaak known as kaak bee haleeb, which means kaak with milk, is also available. They are all made in maamoul molds.
In Jordan, there is a version of kaak served as bread or brioche.
In Egypt, a variety made with almonds, is known as loz bi kahk.
In some Middle Eastern countries, there is a version of kaak, that resembles dry sticks reminiscent of Italian breadsticks called grissini. But there is a really large number of variants. A thirteenth century cookbook, Kitab al Wusla il al Habib, already included three recipes of ka’ak.
In Iraq, kaak is covered with sesame seeds and is called ka’ak ab sumsum.
In Somalia, kaak is spicy, cut in small squares or rectangles, with the same texture as ka’ak from Yemen.
We tasted these Yemeni ka’ak straight out the oven with a glass of Yemeni red tea at home with friends and we all loved them.
How to shape Yemeni ka’ak
- 5 cups flour
- 1 cup butter (soft)
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup milk (warm)
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons milk
- Black sesame seeds
Mix yeast, icing sugar and half the milk.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, butter, whole eggs, egg whites, sugar, salt, yeast mixture and knead for 10 minutes by incorporating the remaining milk gradually.
- Cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190˚C) and shape ka'ak as shown in the video, or simply shape ka'ak as round balls. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Prepare the egg wash by mixing milk and two egg yolks. Brush ka'ak and sprinkle black sesame seeds.
- Cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.