When I was in elementary school, the koulouras, or ‘koulouri man’, came around the yard during breaks. He and his brother had a bakery at Synikismos, the Poros neighborhood that extends north from the small canal separating the town. Their bakery had a wood-burning oven so they arrived at the bakery long before dawn to stoke the fire and prepare the starter, or prozymi, for the bread.
By daybreak, the trays of koulouri – individual bread rings with crispy crusts generously covered with sesame seeds – were done. The smell of fresh-baked bread teased our senses. Dressed in a fresh-white baker’s coat, the koulouras stood outside the school with a box of koulouri which we bought with the 20 lepta, and in later years drachma coin, which our mothers had pressed into our hands as we left our homes.
In summer, when school was out, the koulouras in his white baker’s coat strolled through Poros town selling his bread rings to Greek and foreign tourists.
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that our humble school snack was also very healthful as it’s encrusted in high-quality sesame and has no added fats. Yet it’s tasty – kids love it! – as well as big suited for Greek Lent and vegetarian.
Iconic Greek snack
The koulouri dates back to the Byzantine Empire and was associated mainly with the cities of Constantinople and Thessaloniki. Indeed, koulouri sellers in Constantinople harked their wares as “Thessaloniki koulouri” as did sellers in Athens many, many years later. The name stuck and the Thessaloniki koulouri became the iconic Greek snack.
Prepare the dough, divide it into 10 pieces and roll them into balls.
Get the sesame seeds.
Knead each ball into a sausage shape, carefully dip them into the sugar water and then into the sesame seeds. Gently turn ends towards each other to form a circle or koulouri. The rings should be roughly the same size.
Place koulouri on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Don’t the koulouri look yummy? Enjoy making them!