One of my earliest memories in the kitchen is shaping khalkha with my grandmother. She would make a batch of buttery, yeasted dough, flecked with nigella seeds, and we would shape them together. She stuck with the traditional khalkha shapes, while I would treat the dough almost like Play-Doh and make letters, faces, etc.
Khalkha is actually a crispy, savory cookie that is Turkish in origin. The word khalkha actually means "ring," 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.
When I was growing up, not only were these khalkhas common treats in our home, but they became part of a breakfast ritual that still reminds me of my late grandmother any time I partake in this practice.
My grandmother, or dadeek as I called her, would make a mug of Lipton tea, add a touch of sugar and a fresh squeeze of lemon, and then break up some khalkhas 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 (a bit polluted now with nigella seeds and wet khalkha crumbs), and it was one of the most comforting "breakfasts" from my childhood!
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.
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 :)
Makes about 7 dozen
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
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.