Jerusalem bagel, called Ka'ak Al Quds, are soft and airy oval-shaped bagels with a slight sweetness, thanks to the honeyed sesame topping! These are easy to make and take only a few familiar ingredients. Best enjoyed warm for a quick snack or the perfect breakfast with a little Labneh or even some saucy shakshuka.
Full step-by-step tutorial with photos included below!
If there is one food that has me wishing I could immediately hop on a plane to Jerusalem, it's gotta be a warm Jerusalem bagel!
But since that is not a trip one can make on a whim, I reached for the next best thing, my friend Reem Kassis' recipe for homemade Jerusalem bagels--from her cookbook The Palestinian Table (affiliate link). Since I tried Reem's Musakhan (sumac chicken) earlier, I knew the bagels will be just as authentic and delicious!
These bagels are easy to make and require a few familiar ingredients that you may already have on hand! Oh and a little bit of time. After all, this is bread and bread needs time to rise etc. But, they do bake pretty quickly (about 15 minutes or so).
What are Jerusalem bagels?
These iconic, fluffy sesame bagels called Ka'ak Al Quds are found all over the streets of Jerusalem--traditionally made in wood-fire ovens and sold on street carts. Reem writes, "The men push their ka'ak-laden wooden carts through the streets shouting 'kaaaaa'aaaaak' and everyone from schoolchildren to workers to store owners--even tourists--gathers around for these delicious and filling breads."
These do not have much in common with New York-style bagels which are round, doughy, and dense. Jerusalem bagels are thinner oval-shaped bagels that are soft, airy, and less doughy with a slight sweetness, thanks to the honeyed sesame topping.
How to make them: step-by-step
You'll need a few simple ingredients to make this Jerusalem bagel recipe: flour, sugar, salt, milk, active dry yeast (fast-action), whole milk, baking powder, and extra virgin olive oil. For the topping, Reem uses a mixture of sesame seeds and grape molasses, which is not as readily available so I used honey instead. Here's how it goes (the print-friendly recipe is just below):
- Make the dough. Mix 4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour (bread flour works too), 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 ½ cups milk (or unsweetened almond milk for a vegan option), 1 tablespoon active yeast (fast-action), and 1 teaspoon baking powder together. You can use a freestanding mixer fitted with the dough hook (run it on medium speed until the dough comes together in a soft and pliable ball) or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and pliable (it will take a bit longer this way, but will work). If you're kneading by hand and feel that the dough is too stiff, add a tiny bit of milk and work through. You are looking for a soft, elastic but robust dough.
- Let it rise. Rub the dough with a little bit olive oil and place it in a large bowl. Cove with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm place for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
- Make the sesame topping. Mix 1 cup of white sesame seeds with 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of warm water. You want the mixture to be sticky so it coats the bagels well, but you don't want it to be too thick that it clumps up.
- Divide the dough. Punch the dough down gently and divide it into 6 pieces as equal as possible in size.
- Roll the pieces of dough into thin logs (about 8 to 12 inches long). The dough may want to spring back as you shape it, you'll want to pull and gently stretch it out into logs.
- Turn the logs into ovals. Simply attach the ends together to form a circle (it helps to wet your hands with a bit of warm water to press the ends together). Stretch the circle a bit to form an oval. Leave them on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes.
- Dip them in the sesame mixture. Take each oval and dip it into the sesame mixture (pressing gently helps to stick the sesame onto the bagel. You want as much sesame seeds on the bagels as possible without clumping).
- Arrange on baking sheet. Use a large baking sheet or two here. Leave the bagels to rise one last time for 10 minutes.
- Bake in 450 degrees F heated oven for about 15 minutes or so until they turn a beautiful golden brown. Ovens vary, so watch the bagels carefully (mine were ready in about 10 minutes).
My favorite way to eat Jerusalem bagel
There is no right or wrong way to enjoy these fluffy sesame bagels! They are great on their own, straight out of the oven. And in my opinion, they are the perfect vehicle to wipe up your favorite Mediterranean dip like hummus or creamy Labneh; or some peppery extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of za'atar (my favorite dipping situation).
The other day, I had a warm Jerusalem bagel next to leftover fried eggplant. So good!
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Jerusalem Bagel Recipe
- Stand mixer (optional)
- Large bowl
- Sheet Pan
- 4 ½ cup all-purpose flour or white bread flour
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups whole milk (or unsweetened almond milk for vegan option) warm
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast fast-action
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Olive oil
For the sesame coating
- 1 cup sesame seeds I used raw white sesame seeds
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
- Mix and knead the dough. Put the flour, sugar, salt, milk, yeast, and baking powder in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the dough hook (do not add the olive oil yet). Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together forming a soft and pliable ball. If you do not have a mixer, mix the dough ingredients in a large bowl and knead by hand (you can knead on a clean surface if that is easier for you) until the dough is smooth and pliable (it will take a bit longer this way, but will work). You are looking for a soft, elastic but robust dough.
- Allow the dough to rise. Rub the dough with a little bit olive oil and place it in a large bowl. Cove with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm spot for 1 hour; the dough should rise and double in size.
- Work on the sesame coating. In a large shallow baking dish, combine the sesame seeds and honey with 1 tablespoon of water. Mix, adding a bit more water as necessary, until you have a wet mixture that is neither too sticky and thick that it clumps up, nor too thin (you’ll need to be able to coat the dough in the sesame seeds and have them stick).
- Divide the dough and make 6 equal pieces. Punch down the risen dough and divide it into 6 portions that are equal in size. Place them on a lightly floured work surface. Roll and stretch each piece into a log (about 8-12 inches long), then attach the ends together to form a ring (you should end up with 6 rings). Gently stretch out the rings to form ovals rather than circles. Set aside for 15 minutes to rest.
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees F (gas mark 8).
- Coat the rings or bagels with the sesame coating. Take each dough ring and dip it in the sesame mixture. Set it on a large baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rings. Allow the rings to rest on the baking sheet one more time for 10 minutes.
- Bake. Place the baking sheet (or sheets) in the heated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bagels cook through and turn a deep golden color.
- The sesame seed and honey mixture is likely more than you'll use here. If you want, you can start with ½ cup of sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon of honey.
- You can freeze baked Jerusalem bagels for up to 1 month. Reheat in the oven (from frozen) before serving.
- Vegan option: Sandy, a vegan reader, shared that she used unsweetened almond milk in place of milk for a vegan option. And if you don't eat honey, you can use a vegan equivalent as well.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices.
- Recipe adapted from The Palestinian Table (affiliate link)