While my Mom made new recipes for me, with new-to-her ingredients (TVP-what? chickpea flour-oh my!), I also reciprocated by bringing yet another Turkish dessert for my parents to enjoy. Yes, I will still bake with ingredients that I don’t eat myself. They both adore my baklava and were tickled pink by the Nightingale’s Nests I made last summer. When I spotted shredded phyllo dough at the grocery store (No Frills at Don Mills and Eglinton, for my Toronto peeps!), I knew I had to try to make Tel Kadayif, another Turkish dessert.
When I originally spotted the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan (recipe here), it looked like the most simple baklava. Instead of patiently layering each sheet of phyllo, you have a mess of shredded phyllo dough on the bottom, a middle of sweetened crushed walnuts, topped with more phyllo dough dusted with butter, then doused in a (not too) sugary syrup. Super easy and super tasty (so I hear). While we didn’t use all of the syrup, I think next time we’d even use less, because as you can tell by the photos, it was sopped up by the top layer as well.
While travelling in Turkey, my favourite dessert discovery was kunefe. I think I was in Fethiye, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, when I stumbled upon it. I was wavering between kunefe and Noah’s pudding (asure) on the menu. As I typically do, I consulted with the waiter – which did he recommend? Kunefe, hand’s down, he told us, if we didn’t mind waiting 20 minutes. It was made to order, he explained.
What arrived was a bowl full with toasty, crunchy shredded phyllo with a cheesy filling, doused with a not-too-sweet syrup. Delicious, melted cheese.
After I discovered it in all its cheesy glory, I wanted to try it again. Sadly, the price doubled by the time we made it back to Istanbul (such is life in a larger city). But what was even more sad, even after I bit the bullet of the higher price, was that the restaurants were somehow “out” of kunefe that night. I couldn’t even find it! Too difficult to make, made-to-order, shenanigans is what I figured. We weren’t travelling during tourist season so they had likely scaled back their desserts. Sadly. However, if you swap this walnut filling for a cheese filling, you have kunefe! For a more glorious single serving, I think it gets made in a small frypan, made to order. Neither of my parents like cheese too much, so that’s one Turkish dessert, I likely won’t be making for them. :P
Up next? Who knows? But it may be Turkish delight! How does Bryanna’s Pomegranate and Walnut Turkish Delight sound to you?
(and a big thank you goes to Rob for the photos, since I didn’t even bring my camera to Ottawa!)
Tel Kadayif (Turkish Shredded Phyllo Dough with Walnuts, aka the Easiest Baklava!)
3 cups cold water
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound shredded phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
2 cups walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup unsalted clarified butter or ghee (olive oil if vegan)
ground pistachio nuts (optional)
1. Heat oven to 375 F.
2. To make syrup, combine the water with the sugar. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is light yellow and a small spoonful dropped onto a wooden surface and cooled is tacky. Stir the lemon juice into the syrup and let it cool.
3. Place the walnuts and sugar in a food processor. Process until medium to finely ground –do not grind too fine.
4. Brush the inside of a 10 x 15 x 2-inch baking pan all over with a little of the clarified butter. Separate the shredded dough in half by holding it upright and pulling it apart. Spread half the dough evenly in the pan. Dip a wide pastry brush into the butter and use it to drizzle half the remaining clarified butter over the dough.
5. Spread the walnuts on the dough, pressing gently. Lightly sprinkle the walnut filling with water–use a plant mister-to help the rest of the dough adhere to it when it is added. Place the other half of the shredded dough over the walnuts and gently press down all over. Drizzle the remaining butter over the dough.
6. Bake the dessert in the center of the oven for 35 minutes, or until it’s light golden. Remove the pastry from the oven and immediately pour over the cooled syrup. Cover the pan and let the pastry cool to room temperature. If you like, sprinkle on ground walnuts or pistachio nuts. Cut the pastry into square and serve with thick Turkish cream or whipped cream.
Makes 20 pieces.