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Dec 16, 2021

Ekmak | Syrian Sweet Bread

Ekmak is a Syrian sweet bread that consists of a soft dough shaped into a boat and filled with sweetened soft cheese, fruit, jam, and drizzled with honey. 

Ekmak bread stacked.

This ekmak is shaped like Georgian khachapuri. It's filled with cheese like khachapuri, but it is sweet instead of savory, and the dough is super soft and fluffy. 

I found this bread in the July/August edition of Bake from Scratch Magazine. They refer to it as "the Syrian pastry you need to know." 

This bread evidently has origins in Raqqa, Syria. It's a city that, before it became war-ravaged, was the home of 200,000 people and a vibrant agricultural center with wonderful food traditions. 

Ekmak means "sweet bread with cheese" in old Assyrian, according to the magazine, and it is a dessert.

Ekmak on parchment.

This recipe comes from Riyad Al-Kasem, who is originally from Raqqa and is now a restaurant owner in Tennessee. His restaurant is Café Rakka in Hendersonville. The book, The Road from Raqqa by Jordan Ritter Conn tells Riyad's story of his life in Raqqa and how he came to the United States, started as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant and came to own his own restaurant. 

According to the article in Bake from Scratch, Ekmak comes from his grandmother.

Ekmak cooling on a wire rack.

His own recipe includes a sourdough starter, so feel free to substitute. This dough is kind of like pizza dough, only sweeter. 

I've made this with blackberries, but you can use any berries or fruit you like. be sure to use full fat ricotta, or if you can find it, double-cream ricotta. 

How to Shape Ekmak:

First, form the dough into balls. 

Ekmak dough.

Next, press the dough into disks and let rest for 10 minutes. 

Ekmak dough disks.

Next, stretch out the disks and top them with the ricotta mixture. 

Ekmak dough with cheese filling.

After that, place your hands on opposite ends and sides of the oval and fold the opposite sides of the ends over and press to secure. 

Ekmak shaping method.

Then, fold the other side over to form a boat-like shape. 

Give everything a gentle pull to elongate the breads. 

Ekmak shaped.

Fill top breads with a combination of jam and fresh fruit. 

Ekmak shaped and filled.

Finally, brush the dough with an egg wash and bake the ekmak for about 15 minutes. 

Ekmak baked.

In the article in Baked from Scratch, Riyad talks about how this bread brings back memories of his beloved Raqqa, before it was destroyed. 

"I take a bite and I can almost hear my family laughing. When I copy a recipe from my memory, I copy everything with it, the experience that comes with it too. It is more than just food. It is laughter, memories, pictures, and the smell of the air.... all of that comes together when I do things like this." 

The dough starts super wet but it's pretty easy to work with. Just add more flour to your mixer by tablespoon until you have a super tacky dough. 

Ekmak | Syrian Sweet Bread halves filled.

Making these takes some time, and there is more active time than you might be planning on because you stagger your baking as you are shaping the dough. All in all, I think the whole process was about three hours. 

Once you've made the dough and allowed it to rise, you shape it and fill it with the ricotta mixture and top it with the berry mixture. Once it comes out of the oven, you can sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar and serve it with honey, which is traditional. 

I tried to capture some shots of the drizzling honey, but couldn't quite. The honey does make a big difference though. Although, I'm thinking a sugar glaze might be delicious too. 

Ekmak | Syrian Sweet Bread with honey.

This is an amazing breakfast or dessert. 

To learn more about the restaurant, be sure to check out their Facebook page as well as the restaurant's site

This is this month's Bread Baking Babes bread of the month. I'm the host! After the recipe, be sure to check out all of the Babes' versions of this bread. 

Syrian Sweet Bread with honey.

The Bread Baking Babes:

My Kitchen in Half Cups

Bread Experience

My Diverse Kitchen

A Messy Kitchen

Judy's Gross Eats

Feeding My Enthusiasms

Would you like to comment?

  1. Mmmm! I would love to wake up to one of these. That cheese and berry filling looks amazing.

  2. Finally I got my photos to download from the library. Electricity off in the house.
    I guess if I’d filled these with savory I couldn’t call them Ekmak since it means sweet bread 😂
    Your photos are terrific, so easy to follow the shaping. The final results are perfection. I had to freeze half of these are we would have gone through the entire batch yesterday … without power to keep them frozen, we may have them all to eat tomorrow … not so funny. Thank you much for these!!

  3. What a treat, can't wait to share them! Thanks for this pick!

    1. I knew I wanted to try these, so sharing them with everyone was a no brainer.

  4. Lovely breads and photos! You got that beautiful golden color as well. Thanks so much for the challenge. Ekmak may be a bit involved but they are so good! I'm definitely making them again and hopefully, I won't forget the egg wash next time.

    1. Lol!!! I've been known to forget things like that too.

  5. Great choice, Karen! It was a delicious bread!


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