TURKISH DESSERTS MADE EASY

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2001

Dessert or pudding as we say in the UK is for me the best part of a meal. Turkish desserts are amazing but if you ask most people they would probably only know Turkish Delight and Baklava. However, there is a range of mouth-watering desserts in Turkey. Some recipes are very easy while others do take time to make, but the more you practise the more to eat.

SUTLAC ( Turkish Rice Pudding )

So we will start with a nice easy absolutely mouth-watering recipe. Sutlac is the Turkish version of rice pudding. It’s fairly simple to make too.

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½ cup short-grain rice
2 cups of water
4¼ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream ( double cream )
¾ cup of sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla crystals OR 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon

In a medium-sized saucepan over high heat, bring the rice to a boil in the water. Lower the heat, cover, and cook very gently for about 25 minutes, until the rice is tender and has absorbed the water.
Stir in 4 cups of the milk, the cream, and the sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil.
Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining ¼ cup milk, then gradually add it to the boiling rice mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Lower the heat to medium, add a pinch of salt and the vanilla crystals or extract, and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently.
Transfer it to individual ovenproof bowls NB those little earthenware dishes are ideal and let it cool at room temperature.
Sprinkle the pudding lightly with sugar and place the bowls in the oven under the grill until the pudding is lightly browned.
Serve hot or refrigerate and serve chilled and topped with ground cinnamon.

BAKLAVA

This dessert is popular around the Middle East as well as Turkey. The recipe below is for the Turkish version of the dessert.

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2-1/2 cups cold water
3-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cups pistachios, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 cups unsalted clarified butter
2 packages of phyllo dough, each containing 20-22 sheets of dough, thawed
Finely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)Preheat the oven to 375F.

To make the syrup, combine the cold water with the sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15-30 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is light yellow, and when a small spoonful dropped onto a wooden surface is tacky when cooled. Once ready, stir in the lemon juice into the syrup and set it aside to cool.

Place the nuts and sugar in a food processor and process until medium to finely ground (but not too fine!). Set aside.

Brush the inside of a baking pan (if your phyllo dough is bigger than your pan, let it hang over and trim it off at the end to fit) with a little bit of the clarified butter. Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the pan. With a wide pastry brush or paper towel, lightly brush the dough with the clarified butter. Continue layering the dough and brushing with butter until one package of dough is used.

Spread the nuts over the dough and lightly sprinkle it with water – a plant mister is best- to help the dough adhere to the nuts where the next layer is added. Using the second package of phyllo dough, layer the dough over the nuts, brushing each sheet with clarified butter. Trim the pastry edges to fit neatly within the baking pan. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter. Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut through the dough halfway down the height of the pan into a diamond pattern.

Bake the baklava in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 325F and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the top is lightly golden. Remove the baklava from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Recut the pastries along the lines, all the way to the bottom of the baking pan. Pour the cold syrup evenly over the cut lines (I generally use around 2/3rd of the syrup solution). Sprinkle the baklava with chopped walnuts or pistachios, if so desired, and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Baklava keeps for 1 week in a cool, dry place.

SEKERPARE ( Semolina Cookies )

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Also known as sweetheart cookies these are delicious semolina cookies that are dipped in syrup. This recipe will make approx 17 cookies. This is quite a simple recipe to try out your Turkish cooking skills.

500-gram Flour
2 eggs
100 gram powdered sugar
100 gram margarine
10 gram baking powder
10 gram vanilla powder
17 nuts or similar
Syrup
350 gram sugar
400 ml water
1 dessert spoon lemon’s juice

Syrup
Start with the syrup, as you will need time to have it cool.
Put the sugar in a pot. Add the water and cook to boil. You don’t have to mix.
After the water boils, add a dessert spoon of lemon juice to the syrup.
Boil for about 5 more minutes more and close the heat. Set aside to cool. You can do this earlier in the day or the previous day.
Cookies
Melt the margarine and set aside to cool.
Break one of the eggs in a large mixing bowl and add 100 gram powdered sugar. Mix well with a whisker. If you cannot find powdered sugar use a food processor to turn granulated white sugar to powdered sugar.
Then add the margarine that is cooled by now. Mix for about 5 minutes again with a whisker.
Sieve the vanilla, baking powder and the flour in a separate bowl. Add to the mixture slowly, while mixing with your hand. Knead to obtain a non-sticky dough.
When the dough is not sticking to your fingers anymore try to make a small ball. If you can, it means your dough is ready.
Then turn the dough into a large ball. Cover it with a paper towel and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Now is a good time to start the oven so it heats up to 160 degrees.
Make small – walnut sized – balls from the dough and gently press to make the shape in the picture. Place a nut or similar in the middle.
Separate the second egg’s yolk. Gently brush the top of each ball with this egg yolk to make them brighter when in the oven.
Then place each one on an oven tray with an oven paper on it. They should have room to expand, they should not touch each other.
Cook for about 20 minutes until they are well done and brownish on top and bottom. Your cookies are ready, it is up to you to eat or serve them as cookies if you want to have a dessert please continue.
Dessert
The trick about the syrup is that the cookies should be warm and the syrup should be cold.
As soon as you take out the cookies from the oven put them in a deep serving dish and pour all the syrup on top. Be generous with the syrup, the cookies will soak it up quickly. Cover your serving dish with a tray until serving.

KUNEFE ( Sweet cheese dessert )

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This is a popular dessert made from Kadayif pastry. Also known as Angel Hair Pastry. You can buy this from many Middle East food stores or as an alternative you can buy Filo pastry and shred it finely.

250g kadayif (angel hair) pastry
125g butter, melted and cooled until lukewarm
250g fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
kaymak (buffalo’s milk clotted cream) or mascarpone cheese.

Syrup

200g caster (superfine) sugar
125ml Water plus lemon juice.

To make the syrup, put the sugar and 125 ml of water in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Bring the syrup mixture to the boil, still stirring, and skim off any white froth that forms on the surface. Add the lemon juice and continue to cook, stirring, for a further 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Untangle and cut the angel hair pastry with scissors (into short 1–2 cm/½–¾ inch lengths) into a large bowl, then mix with the lukewarm melted butter, making sure that you take the time to work the butter through the pastry evenly. Separate into two equal portions. Spread the first portion of pastry over the bottom of a medium frying pan, cover with the mozzarella and top with the second half of the pastry. Pan-fry over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden underneath. Turn over and cook on the other side (use a plate to carefully slide out and invert the künefe) for a further 10 minutes. Pour the cold syrup over the künefe and serve hot, cut into wedges or squares, with some kaymak.

KATMER

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Traditionally eaten during breakfast paired with a cup of tea, or by the newlyweds after their wedding night, katmer is an ancient flaky pastry which was probably invented in a Turkish region of Anatolia.

4 phyllo dough sheet
4 tbsp melted butter
100 gr clotted cream
100 gr finely ground unsalted pistachios
2 tbsp sugar

Place the two phyllo sheets on top of each other on a kitchen counter. Brush the phyllo sheets with melted butter.

Place little dabs of the clotted cream and sprinkle finely granulated pistachios and sugar evenly on the cream.

Fold the four corners of the phyllo sheets inside and make an envelope shape. Brush the folded surface with melted butter again.
Put 1 tbsp of butter to the non-stick pan and bring the to medium. After the butter melt put the prepared envelope dough into the pan and fry both sides evenly.

After both sides have a light golden colour, take it from the pan and put to the serving plate.

Cut in 4 pieces, sprinkle finely ground pistachios and serve hot. Add ice-cream to finish!!


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