Just imagine a soft baked dessert, drenched in syrup and topped with nuts. You are tired, you had a long day, and it is cold outside. You walk into a patisserie in Istanbul and order one of those, a sugar-loaded comfort food. You order a glass of Turkish tea with it to wash it down. In ten minutes, you are up and charged, and ready to explore more streets in Istanbul.
In this category, the main concept is to make some flour-based dough, some nuts, bake or fry the dough, and then when it is hot, pour cold syrup over it. Somehow, each one tastes different, and each one is delicious. Maybe the level of softness, or the amount of crunchiness, or the aroma of sweet spices, or the sprinkling of nuts, or vanilla, or rose water, or lemon, or sometimes cheese creates a subtle difference so that you will start identifying your favorite among many.
Turks are very creative in making up names for slight variations of these flour-based desserts. Here is a sample list of these creative names:
Kadin gobegi (woman’s belly)
Vezir parmagi (vizier’s finger)
Tulumba (pump dessert)
Burma tatlisi (Twisted dessert)
Kalbura basti (pressed on sieve)
Dilber Dudagi (lips of a belle)
Kasik tatlisi (spoon dessert)
Sillik tatlisi (Hussy dessert)
And, it is true that each one somehow has its own unique taste.
There is one dessert that fits in this category, but it has an ingredient that the others don’t have: cheese. It is called hosmerim.
Hosmerim: The name for this dessert needs a bit explanation. It is at least a 500 year-old dessert and is still being produced mostly in the Aegean and Thrace region of Turkey, especially in Balikesir City’s Havran town. It is a cheese and flour dessert and its origin comes from the nomad Turks who settled around this region. Legend says that a young bride serveds this dessert when her husband came home, and asked him “Hos mu erim? (English: “Is it nice my soldier/my man?”.) During Ottoman times, wives called their husbands “erim” (meaning my soldier, instead of my man). Later “Hos mu erim?” became hosmerim.
Here are two desserts you can make at home, if you really crave for a dessert.
Un Helva (Flour Helva): Helva, or Halva, is an internationally known Middle Eastern dessert. There are, again, many countries, including Turkey, claim that helva originated from their country. We can buy helva in many countries and they are mostly made with tahini. In Turkey, tahini helva is mostly store bought. But, un helva is always homemade. It is a tradition to serve un helva during the funerals and religious holidays. It is very easy to make.
If you are still up by midnight with a desire for something warm and sweet, try this recipe from almostturkish.blogspot.com.
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups of water
2 tbsp pine nuts
-Start making a roux with flour, butter, oil, and pine nuts on low heat. Important: Stir constantly until it turns into a brownish color. Change arms or pass the job to someone else, but stir constantly; you don’t want flour balls in your halva. And don’t forget; it may take a while.
-In a pot, boil sugar and water.
-Once the flour mixture is brownish, pour syrup, one scoop at a time, and stir constantly until the whole syrup is soaked. It will get harder to stir. Turn it off, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
-With the aid of two spoons, give halva a spoon-shape and serve!
You can experiment with this recipe by either replacing water with milk or using 1 cup water and 1 cup milk.
Sekerpare (meaning Sugar Piece): Although the word “seker” (meaning sugar) has a Persian or Indian origin and “pare” (meaning piece) has Persian origin, Sekerpare is a Turkish dessert.
Sekerpare recipe from Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook
250 ml unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup semolina
2 cup flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
20 blanched almonds (you can use hazelnuts)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
Boil the syrup ingredients for 15 minutes and put aside. Let it cool down.
Combine the butter with powdered sugar, add the egg yolks and mix well with your hands. Now, pour in the semolina, then very slowly add the flour (otherwise the mixture will clump). You will end up with very soft and light coloured dough. Cover it with plastic wrap, put aside for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Make 16 small balls and place on a tray. Lightly press on their tops. Put an almond on the center of each Sekerpare. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until they are light brown.
With a tablespoon, pour warm syrup over hot (freshly) baked Sekerpare. Repeat this a few times and let them soak with the syrup for about 10-15 minutes. Then with a spatula remove them from the syrup and place on a service plate. After cooling, cover them with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Bon Appetite! Afiyet Olsun!