Traditional Turkish desserts

Try these sweet treats.

Fried honey dough  (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Fried honey dough
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
When I came across Arik Darhani and Muli Magriso, two young chefs from Onza, located in the heart of Jaffa’s flea market, my curiosity was piqued. Onza is the product of a Turkish-Arab experiment in which the two chefs invested hours perfecting authentically prepared food from traditional Ottoman recipes. Darhani and Magriso’s newest project is an assortment of unique Jewish Turkish desserts, each of which comes with its own story.
The chefs met with a number of women who made aliya from Turkey and created these special nostalgic delicacies with their help.
The women spoke about their families, the Jewish community of Turkey, and the rich Ottoman Jewish cuisine. A large number of Jews who escaped the Spanish Inquisition made their way to Turkey and preserved their traditional Sephardi recipes. Darhani and Magriso took these recipes and gave them a modern twist.
Below, you’ll find four samples from Onza’s new dessert menu.
The first is tres leches (three milks cake); the second is kabak tatlısı tarifi (candied pumpkin); the third is sutlac (rice pudding), and the last is tulumba (honey dough).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Kabak tatlısı tarifi (candied pumpkin)
Levana Magriso, chef Muli’s mother, serves Kabak Tatlısı Tarifi and says that this dish is considered one of the nicest Turkish desserts that hosts can serve their guests. It’s often prepared with pistachios and kaymak, a creamy dairy product, which she prepares herself from mascarpone cheese.
This dish is best prepared a day ahead of time.
Makes 8-10 servings
1 kg. pumpkin, clean of fibers, seeds and rind, cut into 4 cm. x 4 cm. cubes
500 gr. sugar
1 anise star
6 fennel seeds
6 coriander seeds
Mascarpone cream:
200 gr. mascarpone cheese
50 ml. sweet cream
Serving suggestion: ½ cup crushed pistachios
In a large pot, add the pumpkin cubes and spread them out in a single layer with the sugar and spices. Place in the fridge and let it sit overnight, which will give the pumpkin time to release lots of liquid. The next day, place the pot over a medium/low flame and cook for about an hour until it’s soft. Store in the fridge until serving.
To make the cream, add all the ingredients to a bowl and blend on medium speed with an electric mixer until cream is smooth.
Place the pumpkin cubes on a serving dish and put a dollop of cream on top of each one. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios.
Candied pumpkinCandied pumpkin
Tres leches (three milks cake)
The following recipe comes from the kitchen of Zelda Golerstein and is a popular Jewish delicacy eaten in Turkey on holidays that made its way from Spain. This recipe calls for three types of dairy products: milk, condensed milk and sweet cream.
Use a 30cm x 30cm pan.
5 eggs
200 gr. sugar
5 gr. powdered sugar
Granules from 1 vanilla bean
220 gr. white flour, sifted
40 gr. durum flour
100 ml. oil
Milk sauce:
600 ml. cream
40 gr. powdered milk
Caramel toffee:
100 gr. sugar
200 gr. cream
Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer and add vanilla until light and creamy. Fold in white flour and baking powder a little bit at a time. Add the durum flower.
Slowly add the oil and mix well.
Grease a pan with butter and pour in the batter. Flatten batter and bake in an oven preheated to 170º for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cake in the oven for another 20 minutes.
To make the milk sauce, pour the cream into a pot and add the powdered milk. Stir until mixed well.
Cook over medium flame and bring to a boil.
Take the cake out of the oven, poke holes in it with a toothpick or the tines of a fork and then pour the cream over the cake.
To prepare the caramel, pour the sugar into a medium- sized pot and melt until it turns an amber color.
Pour the cream into the pot on top of the caramel, but don’t stir it. After the cream has been absorbed into the caramel, you can stir it with a wooden spoon until it’s the consistency of smooth toffee.
After the sauce has been absorbed into the cake, spread a layer of caramel on top. Let cool and cut into pieces and serve. Store in the fridge.
Tres leches cakeTres leches cake
Sutlac (rice pudding)
This sutlac recipe hails from Levana Levenstein, who serves it with aromatic geranium water. At first glance, it appears similar to malabi, but it is more solid. This is a recipe that traveled with Jews who escaped the wrath of the Inquisition in Spain and made their way to Turkey.
It used to be called arroz con leche (rice with milk) in Spanish. After reaching Turkey, the recipe was adjusted to take advantage of local raw materials, such as condensed milk, cinnamon and lemon peel. At Onza, sutlac is served with halva caramel and salty caramel ice cream.
Makes 15 servings
2 liters hot milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and emptied
200 gr. sugar
300 gr. round risotto rice
For halva crumble:
500 gr. flour
1 tsp baking powder
250 gr. almond powder
500 gr. cold butter, cut into cubes
400 gr. sugar
300 gr. raw tehina
Serving suggestion:
Vanilla ice cream or 1 cup halva slivers
Pour the milk into a large pot. Add the vanilla and sugar and mix. Bring to a boil. Pour the rice into a nonstick pot and heat over low flame. Stir. Pour milk mixture over rice slowly while mixing. Keep mixing as pudding thickens.
Keep checking the thickness by putting a cold spoon into pudding. When the pudding starts sticking to the spoon, you’ll know it’s done. Pour into individual bowls and refrigerate.
Blend the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the tehina and mix. Add the baking powder, almond powder and flour and mix on low speed until well mixed. Pour onto a lined baking tray and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Bake in an oven preheated to 150º for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.
Assemble the crumble ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers until crumbly. Just before serving, sprinkle the crumble on top of pudding. (You can store leftover crumble in your fridge or freezer for future use.) Serve sutlac with a scoop of ice cream or halva slivers.
Rice puddingRice pudding
Tulumba (fried honey dough)
This recipe has been passed down for generations in Corinne Mishli’s family. Tulumba is dough that was rolled into an oval shape, fried, and then dipped in syrup. It’s eaten together with kaymak, a creamy dairy product.
Makes 30 pieces
40 gr. butter
40 gr. sugar
400 ml. water
500 gr. white flour
3 eggs
60 gr. durum flour
40 gr. cornflour
500 gr. sugar
500 ml. water
Juice from 1 lemon
2-3 drops rose water
½ cup powdered sugar
Oil for deep frying
To prepare syrup, boil the water, sugar and lemon in a pot over a low flame and cook for 10 minutes. Add the rose water and cook until the syrup thickens.
To prepare the dough, heat up the butter, sugar and water in a pot until everything has dissolved. Add the white flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Remove from flame and let cool.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook and gradually add the eggs. Add the cornflour and durum flour while mixing slowly until smooth.
Transfer dough to an icing bag with a flat or star tip. Heat a frying pan with oil and carefully drop the dough pieces into the hot oil by squeezing the dough out of the icing bag. Each piece should be around 3-4 cm long. Fry them until they're golden brown and then remove from pan and place on paper towels.
Place the fried pieces in the syrup and let them soak for five minutes. Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with a cup of steaming tea.