In part one of our most popular Turkish desserts series we focused on pudding and confectionery types. Now we will take a closer look at phyllo dough (the famous baklava varieties), semolina, and fruit desserts.
As usual I’ll explain how every dessert is made and highlight the main ingredients. I recommend you try at least a few during your stay.
This over 500 year old dessert is from the west of Turkey, the city of Balıkesir. Roasted semolina is sweetened with a syrup of milk, water and sugar. The most important ingredient of höşmerim is dil peyniri, an unsalted mozzarella like cheese. It melts and mixes within the rest. The dressing elements are cream, almond, walnut, shredded coconuts or caster sugar.
This cake consisting of a mixture of semolina, wheat flour, eggs, sugar, oil, yogurt and lemon zest is baked and sweetened with a syrup of water, sugar and lemon juice.
The term ‘helva‘ means sweet in Arabic. Turks became familiar with helva after their introduction to Islamic and Arabic culture. The relatives of a deceased person cook and offer semolina helva or flour helva to visitors and neighbors on the seventh and fortieth day following the death of a Muslim, and also on the first anniversary.
Semolina is roasted in butter together with pine nuts on very low fire for a long time and left to rest with boiling hot milk, water, and sugar. Cinnamon is the most common dressing.
Phyllo Dough Desserts (Types of Baklava)
When you ask a Turk what to eat as a Turkish dessert, baklava is the most common answer. Turks love sweets and baklava is a fine example of this. The description of baklava is simple: chopped nuts are spread in between the phyllo (yufka) layers, dressed with butter, baked and sweetened with syrup or honey. However, this is not a simple dessert to make. We have a whole page dedicated to this famous Turkish dessert.
Basically the dessert is the same as baklava but with a slightly different syrup. The amount of water is less and milk is added. Therefore it has a whitish look and it also tastes a little less heavy. The origin of the name is vague. Nuriye is a female name. Some say the dessert takes its name after the inventor. Some say the cow that supplied milk to make the dessert was called Nuriye. Others say that after the Coup d’état in 1980, when the economy was disastrous and the prices of baklava were frozen by the municipality, people got creative not to lose money. Using milk with less sugar instead of sorbet, and hazelnuts instead of the more expensive pistachios was the invention of a baklava artisan. And he called it Sütlü Nuriye to point out the difference.
Another variant of baklava, this time by its shape. A few layers of very thin phyllo dough are placed on top of each other, dressed with nuts between the layers, wrapped around a rolling pin, and creased around the pin by pushing. It is then dressed with butter, oven baked and sweetened with the syrup. Since it has a hole in the middle you might say a portion is a little more guilt free of calories.
Bülbül yuvası (Nightingale’s Nest)
The name comes from the circular shape of the phyllo dough containing nuts, mostly pistachios. The preparation is almost the same with burma, but the difference is that the rolls are shaped into rings and the pistachios are placed in the hallows of the rings after the dough is cooked.
Fıstıklı Sarma (Pistachio Wrappings)
This Turkish dessert is also similar to baklava, with the exception of the excessive amount of pistachio. Fıstık means pistachio and this desert is only made with pistachios. Whereas you can get baklava with hazelnuts, walnuts or pistachio. Its hometown is the city of Gaziantep in the south-east of Turkey. I haven’t been to Gaziantep, however I have been to another city in the south-east, Kahramanmaraş. This dessert with the Maraş ice-cream on the top was a killer taste I fail to forget, ever!
This is the only phyllo dough dessert with an original filling compared to the rest. A mixture of milk and semolina is boiled to a thick pudding called kaymak – cream filling. Around 10 layers of phyllo doughs are put on top of each other with a butter dressing on each, and are then cut in 7 by 7 cm squares. Kaymak and walnuts are placed on the center of the squares, folded into two as triangles, baked, sweetened with the syrup and dressed with grounded pistachios.
In the 15th century, the common people of the Ottoman Empire made stocks of yufka – phyllo dough, made of maize starch and water. After contact with air, these sheets dried and it was ideal to save them for months. To eat when desired, they soaked the sheets in milk and sugar. In the course of time rose water became another ingredient as well as the hazelnut, walnut or almond in between.
This light and refreshing Turkish dessert became a huge favorite to eat after breaking the fast during the Ramadan. Today, the yearly consumption of güllaç is around 250 tons. Some 85% of this is consumed during Ramadan. Recently rose water become less popular and has been replaced by a pomegranate dressing on the top. It adds nice flavor and a charming look on the plain white dessert.
Instead of phyllo dough, kadayıf is the main base of künefe. Kadayıf is thin fibers of dough, a simple mix of water and flour. Künefe or kanafeh in Arabic is a traditional Arab cheese pastry. The unsalted cheese in between the two layers of kadayıf is the essence. It is freshly baked, soaked in sweet syrup and served warm with grinded pistachio dressing. When walnut replaces the cheese, it is called cevizli künefe. However, I do recommend you to try the cheese version, peynirli künefe.
There are more desserts made with kadayıf such as kadayıf burması/dolması (rolls of kadayıf with nuts) and muhallebili kadayıf (kadayıf with pudding in the middle).
Squash (kabak) dessert is pretty simple yet luscious, especially when served with thick cream or even fresh yogurt to make it lighter. The dressing can be walnut or hazelnut. The squash boils lightly with sugar and very little water. Some prefer to bake for more crispy edges and a sticky texture.
One of my favorites, quince dessert is a modest name for such a divine taste. Cooked in water, then oven baked with sugar, with cinnamon sticks and nuts in the middle. Can also be served with ice-cream or thick cream in the middle. It is certainly lighter than most of the traditional Turkish desserts.