In my previous post on Turkish desserts, I talked about my own category: Maras ice cream, and Profiterol – my favorite desserts. When I visit Turkey, I first go through my own category and then work my way through all the other categories and savor every morsel of each dessert I order. If you want to control your weight, make sure to lose a few pounds before you explore this forbidden land of desserts or make sure to share them with your fellow travelers. As a third alternative, you may want to reserve an afternoon in Istanbul for dessert mania and order every dessert on the menu at one of the great pastry shops. Make sure to keep ordering Turkish tea to wash them down so that you won’t get sick.
Now, I will cover my next category: Category # 2: Puddings.
My favorite Turkish puddings include: Tavuk Gogsu (chicken breast!), Kazandibi, Keskul, Asure, Zerde, and Damla Sakizli Muhallebi (Milk Pudding with Mastic Gum). I leave the rest of the puddings in this category up to you to find out and try when you visit Turkey.
Two things come to my mind when I think about Turkish puddings that are served in a bowl topped with pistachios, almonds, pomegranates, cinnamon, coconut flakes, and/or Maras Ice Cream(!): I dream about the softness and the delicate taste the pudding leaves in my mouth and the sweet smell that lingers in the air. If you like desserts like I do, so much that I sometimes order dessert first then order the meals, please do not think anything that can make you feel guilty while enjoying your dessert. You are a human being and you deserve to indulge. I prefer not to think about the voyage that my mouthful of pudding takes after it leaves my taste buds. And when I am in Turkey, I never weigh myself.
Over the many hundreds years of Ottoman and Turkish cuisine, creativity played a great role on creating wonderful desserts. Think about the immense kitchen of the Topkapi Palace where every cook is trying to please the Sultan. Many of the wonderful recipes of Turkish cuisine have been created within the walls of this kitchen. Being on the Silk Road becomes the icing on the food creations where the cooks tried many spices, nuts, and herbs in their cooking. Especially in creating desserts!
A FEW PUDDINGS FROM TURKEY:
Tavuk Gogsu (Chicken Breast): It is true that this pudding includes chicken breast in the recipe. It is identical to the medieval dish, blanc manger, which was a common dessert in the cuisine of the upper class in Europe. This medieval dish which contains chicken was even described in The Canterbury Tales.
Believe me; the chicken in the recipe does not taste like chicken at all. If the recipe calls for chicken breast and asks you to boil the chicken only once or twice, then the chef is dead wrong. To get the chicken smell out completely and to leave only the texture that chicken meat provides, first you need to use fresh chicken. And you need to boil the chicken breast and let it rest in cold water for 20 minutes and rinse it. And repeat this resting in cold water and rinsing process about 6-7 times until the chicken smell is completely gone. I have made it several times and it worked. Here is a good recipe to follow (just make sure to add my suggestion of the resting in cold water and rinsing process):
Tavuk Gogsu (Chicken Breast) Pudding:
• 1 chicken breast
• 3 1/2 cups milk
• 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 5 tablespoons rice flour
• Ground cinnamon (optional)
• Roasted, unsalted almonds (optional)
Place the chicken breast in a pan with a little water, bring it to boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat is cooked. Drain and tear it into fine threads. Place chicken fibers/threads in cold water for 20 minutes, rinse. And repeat this process until no chicken smell left.
Moisten the rice flour with a little of the milk. Put the rest of the milk into a saucepan with the cream, salt, and sugar, and bring the liquid to boil. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot liquid to the moistened rice flour, and pour the mixture into the pan.
Beat vigorously and continue to cook over a low heat, stirring all the time so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until the mixture begins to thicken. Beat in the fine threads of chicken and continue to cook the mixture until very thick. At this stage, the pudding can be cooled and eaten plain. Garnish, if desired, with ground cinnamon and/or lightly-toasted almonds or pistachios.
Alternatively, tip it into a heavy-based frying pan and place over the heat for 5 to 10 minutes to burn the bottom of the pudding. Move the pan around so that the pudding is evenly burnt. Leave to cool in the pan, cut into rectangles, and lift them out with a spatula. Roll the rectangles into logs, and serve at room temperature or slightly cooled.
Kazandibi: Either take Tavuk gogsu pudding or just regular pudding, spread it on a powder sugar-sprinkled tray and burn the bottom of the tray on a burner of your stove. This link at www.about.com provides you clear instructions on how to make Kazandibi.
Keskul: If you like almonds, this is it. It is even better with bitter almonds. But, regular almonds are just fine too. It is incredibly delicious. For an easy recipe, go to this link at www.food.com.
Asure: According to the legend, Noah (or his wife) invented this dessert by combining whatever ingredients were left on the ark, probably towards the end of their ordeal. I am not sure they fed this to the animals, but I am sure they enjoyed it themselves. It is a very traditional household dessert and almost every mom in Turkey knows how to make it. It is probably the healthiest of all Turkish desserts. Try it with a great recipe from Ozlemsturkishtable.com. You will enjoy it especially during the winter months where you can find fresh pomegranate seeds to garnish it.
Zerde: Think Saffron in this delicate dessert made with rice flour. Water is used instead of milk which makes this dessert very calorie-friendly. Try the recipe in Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook site.
Damla Sakizli Sut Muhallebisi (Milk Pudding with Mastic Gum): Wonderfully light pudding with a sensational taste of mastic gum. I always keep mastic gum in my freezer ready to be used to make Maras Dondurma (Maras Ice Cream) and this delicious pudding. Ottomancuisine.com provides a great recipe for this centuries old dessert.
Bon Appetite! Afiyet Olsun!