Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Syrian Pastry for Bread Baking Babes December Bake

The time before Christmas in December is always a busy time, but this month's Kitchen of the month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, gave us such a good recipe that I had to make time to bake it.

The bread is Ekmak, which are lovely bread boats filled with ricotta cheese filling and topped with some fruit mixed with jam. Karen told us, "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 article in Bake from Scratch. This Syrian pastry, Ekmak, comes from Riyad Al-Kasem's grandmother, and it is a dessert. 

Riyad Al-Kasem is originally from Raqqa and is now a restaurant owner in Tennessee. His restaurant is CafĂ© 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. 

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

I enjoyed the Ekmak quite a bit, but Sweetie was expecting a flakier pastry and said he would prefer that to the pizza dough type bread. I might have to make it again, using the same filling and topping and shaping, just using puff pastry for the dough...a totally different dessert of course, but that filling really is a delight.

Do make this pastry as written both to become a Buddy and to see if you like it as much as I do or if you agree with Sweetie. To be a Buddy, bake it by December 29th and send an email to Karen along with your post's URL and a photo, plus a short description of your bake.

Also, do visit the other Babes sites. The ones I have seen so far have been beautiful and they like this recipe very much just as it is (with the usual creative Babes variations).

I made this with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam. The tang of the fresh, unsweetened berries was a nice counterpoint to the mellow cheese filling and the warm bread. Other Babes used different fruits and flours. You can make this your own recipe fairly easily.


For the cheese filling:

20 ounces (567 grams) full fat ricotta cheese, preferably double cream. 

63 grams (1/2 cup) all purpose flour

2 large eggs

28 grams (4 teaspoons) honey

3/4 teaspoons (2.25 grams) kosher salt

If you want a sweeter filling, you can add some sugar to taste. 

For the raspberry topping:

115 grams (3/4 cup) fresh raspberries, cut in half, lengthwise

112 grams (1/3 cup) raspberry preserves

For the Dough:

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast

12 ounces warm water (95 to 100 degrees F), divided

500 to 575 grams all purpose flour

1/4 cup (57 grams) butter, room temperature (super soft)

1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

9 grams (1 tablespoon) kosher salt


For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water


 Make the Ekmak:

First, mix the cheese filling ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate at least three hours, while you are making the dough. 

 Make the raspberry mixture:

Mix the ingredients and set aside.


To Make the Ekmak:

1.             In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar. Add 6 ounces of the warm water and let sit until foamy. 

2.             In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 500 grams of the flour, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the butter and mix with the dough hook on low until the butter is evenly distributed, about a minute. Pour in the yeast mixture and the apple cider vinegar and mix on low while gradually adding the remaining 6 ounces of warm water. 

3.             Knead on medium-low until the dough comes together. Switch to medium and knead until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. Add remaining flour, by tablespoons, until the dough is the right consistency. 

4.             Add the salt and knead for an additional minute on medium speed. 

5.             Turn the dough out onto your counter and form it into a ball. 

6.             Place it into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 45 min. to an hour. 

7.             Heat your oven to 425 degrees F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. 

8.             Line three baking sheets with parchment and lightly sprinkle each with flour. 

9.             Deflate the risen dough and let rest for 10 minutes. 

10.           Divide the dough into 9 pieces and cover the pieces with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. 

11.           Roll each piece into a round and place each onto a lightly floured work surface. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

12.           Stretch each ball into a 6 inch round, re-cover with the plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. 

13.           Stretch each round into a 10 inch by 4 inch oval and spoon 1/3 cup of the cheese filling onto the dough. 

14.           Fold the dough as pictured to create "boats" and stretch the dough to about 12 inches long. Place the "boats" on the parchment lined baking sheets, 3 per sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

15.           Spoon a tablespoon of the raspberry mixture in the middle of the cheese mixture. Brush the dough with the egg wash. 

16.           Bake the ekmak for 15 minutes once sheet at a time, turning the baking sheet half way through. 

17.           Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes on a rack.

18.           Serve warm. 

Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in a 325 degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

 Tip: Work with dough in stages so that you can prepare three ekmak at a time and continue to shape, fill, let rise, and bake, in stages. I worked in 5 minute intervals so that each 3rd of dough was about 5 minutes behind. 

 Either way, it's not a big deal. It's like using pizza dough. 

 This is an amazing breakfast or dessert. 



  1. Lol, sounds like sweetie prefers a Danish! Love the way the raspberries look on your filling, gorgeous!

  2. Raspberries sounds delicious!! Thanks for baking with me!

  3. The ricotta filling sounds wonderful - love sweet breads!

  4. Your raspberry topping looks so good! I bet it went really well with the cheese filling.

  5. Your breads look lovely. I can see how a flakier pastry would be good too, something like a Danish....