Turkish Desserts: 4 Delights for Your Sweet Tooth

Asia, Europe, Featured, Food News, Middle East — By on January 20, 2011 at 6:00 am

As a girl with restless taste buds, I am always searching for new and exotic foods to try. So when I booked my flight to Turkey, I waited anxiously for the moment when I could step off the plane and into a restaurant where I could indulge in some traditional Turkish delicacies. Happily, when that day finally came, I was not disappointed. I continued to eat my way through Istanbul, and the more I ate, the more I learned that Turkey knows how to do sweets just right. Maybe it’s their use of honey or nuts, but the combinations found in these 4 sweet Turkish creations has made them my favorites.

1) Turkish Delight Turkish Desserts

If you’ve ever eaten Turkish Delight, you can understand how Edmund Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia could become addicted to it. For those of you who haven’t tried it, well, you really should. A cross between a marshmallow and a gummy bear in texture, Turkish Delight comes in countless flavors, ranging from rosewater to sweet chocolate, all rolled in powdered sugar or dried coconut. If you’re unsure as to what flavor to buy, vendors at the Spice Market who sell this freshly-made sweet let you taste-test as much as you want. After “testing” several varieties, I finally decided on the pomegranate with pistachios and dried coconut, the hazelnut rolled in a powered sugar, and the rosewater, also rolled in powdered sugar. If you tell the salesman that you are taking your purchase back home, he’ll even vacuum seal it for you so that this treat stays fresh.

2) Balkaymak

An American friend living in Istanbul once told me that the day she ate balkaymak was the day she decided to stay in Turkey. That’s how good this stuff is. Made from clotted cream (I know that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing but trust me, it is) and honey, balkaymak is often served at breakfast as a spread to use on bread. Smooth and slightly sweet, balkaymak turns your basic piece of toast into a heavenly dessert. To try it, sit down for a leisurely traditional Turkish breakfast at the cafe, Kale Cay Bahcesi, in Uskudar along the Bosphorus.

3) Helva

After a delicious fish dinner at the Olimpiyat, a restaurant in the quaint waterside area of Istanbul known as Karakoy, I was presented with a dish that, at my first glance, appeared to be steamy, hot hummus with shredded carrots. I learned that it wasn’t hummus but rather a type of helva, a popular dessert in Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Intrigued by this little black pot of helva, I tasted a spoonful and instantly decided that it was one of my favorite Turkish dishes. A bit grainy and sticky, this honey and nutty-flavored blend warmed me up inside. There are many varieties of helva, and the textures can vary, depending upon whether it is made with a flour base or a nut-butter base. The most common types found in Turkey are the more gelatinous, flour-based helvas. They can be made or garnished with almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, honey, and other sweeteners.

Baklava Picture4) Baklava

I’ve heard the Turks and the Greeks are in an ongoing debate about who first created baklava. Personally, I don’t care who did it, just as long as I still get to eat it. Layer upon layer of Phyllo pastry, honey, and nuts (usually pistachios or walnuts), baklava’s flavors just seem to melt in your mouth. A popular dessert in Turkey and its neighboring countries, there are several versions of baklava, but my favorite so far would have to be the cevizli (walnut) kind that I had at Gulluoglu Karakoy, a famous bakery whose specialty is baklava. Fortunately, Gulluoglu also has a shop at the airport. Shop clerks will wrap the box up nice and tight in plastic wrap so that you can take it on the plane and not risk having air pressure squeeze the honey out all over the contents of your carry-on. Another alternative would be to buy dry baklava, but it’s just not the same in my opinion.

Try these 4 delicacies to experience a sweet taste of Turkey.

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