How wonderful it is to visit a country that has its priorities right. For the sweet-toothed amongst us, Turkey shares an appreciation of all things sweet – a nation after my own heart. The act of eating desserts is a social activity and it is common to see locals gathering for a coffee and a sweet delicacy. Even better still, they eat sweets at any time of the day including breakfast. Here are some of Turkey’s best desserts to whet your appetite.
Made with layers of filo pastry, which surround a delicate and sweet filling of chopped nuts and syrup or honey, Baklava is without doubt the best known. It has been around for centuries and was the sweet treat of choice in the Ottoman Empire and comes in a number of variations such as likeceviz dola ma, a more compact baklava made with walnuts. Dürüm is made with only a single layer of filo but don’t be put off by its green appearance – it’s not gone off. It’s simply the green pistachios that provide the green glow.
Without doubt, Turkish Delight (or lokum as it is known locally) sounds far better than starch and sugar gel, which is the basis of this renowned delicacy. More exotic variations consist of chopped dates, pistachios and walnuts, which are usually flavoured with rosewater, Bergamot orange or lemon. The tacky mixture is then eaten in small cubes which are dusted in powdered cream of tartar or icing sugar to prevent the pieces sticking together. The story goes that Turkish Delight was invented so that a famous Sultan could appease his wives and asked a confectioner to come up with a unique sweet – no doubt to echo the sweetness of his harem. The powerful Sultan was so pleased with the confectioner’s creation that he promoted him to the position of Court Chief Confectioner. Turkish Delight has been delighting us all since.
Dondurma is Turkish for freezing. So you may have already guessed that our next dessert is the worldwide favourite…ice cream! Believed to originate in the region of Maras, it’s often called Maras Ice Cream but different regions lay claim to their own versions. For example, Malatya is famous for apricot varieties, Adana is known for its kebab varieties (you read that correctly). Kahramanmaras is probably the most entertaining ice cream. It has a creamy texture, and believe it or not, doesn’t melt. This is due to salep – the dried and powdered root of the Southern Turkish orchid that gives this ice cream a uniquely pliable characteristic.
Unique to Turkey and its surrounding regions, Muhallebi is a rich and creamy, milk-based dessert that is at its best when served really cold in the summer. It is basically a blancmange that you can eat plain or with chocolate or vanilla. What’s not to like? Although these days, corn starch is used to make it, the original recipe called for wheat flour and rose water.
There are a number of different spellings of Künefe. Watch out for the variations knafeh, Kunafeh, kunafeh, knafeh, or kunafah. Sweet meets savoury in the typical Künefe. Made from cheese pastry that has been soaked in a sugar-based syrup, this substantial dessert can be found not just in Turkey but in most regions of the former Ottoman Empire. The pastry is heated in butter, margarine, or palm oil, then spread with soft white cheese, such as Nabulsi cheese, and topped with more pastry. More often than not, the top layer of this pastry is tinted orange due to food colouring. As with most Turkish desserts, a garnish of crushed pistachios is sprinkled on top.
Have you visited Turkey and tried these delicious deserts? Which was your favourite? Discuss below in the comments box.