Armenian Khalkha (Simit/Kekhke)

April 9, 2015 (Last Updated: April 1, 2020)
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An Armenian savory cookie that goes by many names: Khalkha / Simit / Kekhke. If you ask Armenians (I did) what they call it, you’ll get a lot of different answers, but we are unified in loving these cracker-cookies! There are sweet versions too, but this is the savory one my family prefers.

Crunchy golden rings of khalkha / simit

Khalkha is a crispy, savory cookie. The word khalkha actually means “ring” in Turkish, as in a ring shape, not a piece of jewelry. While its name refers to a round, ring-like shape, many people prefer to create twisted khalkhas instead. The shape makes little difference to the overall enjoyment of these buttery, rich snacks.

There are many Armenians who make these cracker-like cookies a bit differently, and call them different names. I think it’s important to include some of these variances so we cover all our bases.

Two trays of baked Armenian khalkha / simit, half shaped into rings, the other into twists

Many Armenians refer to these cookies as simit, which actually means “sesame seeds” in Turkish. This generally refers to versions that contain or are topped with sesame seeds but can broadly identify the others. There are also breads that are covered in sesame seeds which go by the same name. I would say the majority of Armenians I asked use this terminology for this recipe.

The other dominant nomenclature for this recipe is kekhke or aghi kekhke (salty kekhke for the non-sweet version). From my research kekhke is a slightly sweeter recipe which is shaped the same and contains some sugar and mahlab, a spice also used in chorek.

And speaking of chorek, there are still others who call these smaller twists chorek. My family reserves that name for the sweet bread we make around Christmas and Easter. In any case, as you can see there are a lot of different terms, and a lot of different ways to make these baked treats.

Two trays of baked Armenian khalkha / simit, half shaped into rings, the other into twists

Childhood memories

One of my earliest memories in the kitchen is shaping khalkha with my grandmother, or dadeek as I called her. She would make a batch of buttery, yeasted dough, flecked with nigella seeds, and we would shape them together. She stuck with the traditional shapes, while I would treat the dough almost like Play-Doh and make letters, faces, etc.

When I was growing up, these were common treats in our home. They were also part of a breakfast ritual that still reminds me of my late grandmother any time I partake in this practice.

My dadeek would make a mug of Lipton tea. She’d add a touch of sugar and a fresh squeeze of lemon, and then break up some khalkha into large pieces and add them to the tea. Then she would fish out the bites of tea-soaked khalkha with a spoon. At first they still retain some of their texture, and later are much softer and falling apart.

Wash it all down with the remnants of the tea, now a bit polluted with nigella seeds and wet khalkha crumbs. It was one of the most comforting “breakfasts” from my childhood! I would watch Gilligan’s Island while enjoying my tea and khalkha breakfast!

Round savory cookie rings baked until golden

How to make khalkha

Khalkha can be time consuming to make, mainly because of the step of shaping them. Honestly, you can easily just cut them into short breadstick-shapes and call it a day, but I think it’s worth a little extra effort. Even though this is a yeasted-dough, that’s not very daunting, and the proofing time isn’t excessive.

You’ll start by combining warm water with dry-active yeast. Give it about 10 minutes to “bloom” and soften. In a large bowl add the nigella seeds and salt, and then top with the water/yeast mixture, then melted butter and oil. Slowly add the flour and mix until it’s all combined. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and pliable.

Before proofing

Next you’ll have to proof your dough, which means allow it to rise. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it aside in a warm spot. I sometimes turn on my oven very briefly, and then turn it off so it’s just warm but not too hot. You don’t want to bake the dough just yet! Proof the dough for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

After proofing

Finally, it’s time to shape and bake these guys. You have a couple options here. You can form them into rings (like the name khalkha implies) or twists. Brush the tops with egg wash, and bake until golden and crisp.

Round khalkha / simit rings on a baking sheet

Whether you enjoy these crisp khalkhas with your morning tea or as an afternoon snack, they are decadent and satisfying. It’s also impossible to eat just one! Just beware, they are far from fat-free, but worth a bit of indulgence if you ask me 🙂 They also freeze really well, so plan on making the entire recipe even if you aren’t feeding an army. It will keep, and you will thank me later!

Simit twists piled high on a square maroon plate

Other Middle Eastern baking recipes you may like

Round khalkha rings baked until golden on a baking sheet

Have you ever tried khalkha (or one of its many variations) before? What do you call it? Leave me a note in the comments!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Armenian Khalkha (Simit/Kekhke)

An Armenian savory cookie that goes by many names: Khalkha / Simit / Kekhke. If you ask Armenians (I did) what they call it, you'll get a lot of different answers, but we are unified in loving these cookies! There are sweet versions too, but this is the savory one my family prefers.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time30 mins
Rising Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time3 hrs
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Armenian, Middle Eastern
Keyword: snack recipes
Servings: 7 dozen
Calories: 63kcal
Author: Victoria

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter melted
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

  • Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and allow the yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes until softened and dissolved.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the nigella seeds and kosher salt. Stir in the water/yeast, melted butter, and oil. Slowly add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until it becomes thick enough to mix with your hands. Continue to mix/knead the dough until it becomes smooth, soft, and pliable.
  • Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to proof in a slightly warm space for 1 1/2 hours, or until about double in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F placing the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Cut portions of the dough with a knife, covering the remaining dough until needed. Roll each portion into a rope about 1/4-inch thick on an unfloured work surface (alternatively, pinch off smaller pieces of dough and roll them out individually). To create twists, cut into segments about 4-to-6-inches in length. Fold each segment to bring the ends together, pressing gently, and then twist (the length will determine the size of the twists). To create rings, cut the segments into 4-inch pieces and pinch together the opposite ends to yield a circle. Place each twist or ring on the parchment-lined baking sheets, setting them about 1-inch apart.
  • Brush the beaten egg over each khalkha and then place baking sheets in the oven (you may need to bake them in batches) for about 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through. The khalkhas are done when they are golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving.
  • Khalkha can keep in an airtight container for about a week and can be frozen.

Notes & Nutrition

Servings 80.0 * calories 63 * Total Fat 3 g * Saturated Fat 2 g * Monounsaturated Fat 1 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 8 mg * Sodium 32 mg * Potassium 3 mg * Total Carbohydrate 8 g * Dietary Fiber 0 g * Sugars 0 g * Protein 1 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*
Two trays of baked Armenian khalkha / simit, half shaped into rings, the other into twists

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Mary Kabakian
    April 4, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    5 stars
    I’m happy that our children are learning these recipes from their grandparents and keeping the family traditions alive. I’m very proud of you, Victoria!

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