A Beginner's Guide to Turkish Pastries
Let's take a trip to the Turkish fırın, meaning bakery, to see what is fresh out of the oven. Here is a sample of five different pastries that are a few of my favorites, especially when introducing others to the world of Turkish baked goods. Bread plays a vital role in Turkish food culture - riots are been caused because of bread and the Turkish economy is often been measured using the price of the simit as a reference point. Some Turks even refuse to eat a meal without a basket of bread on the table. Historically and culturally, bread in Turkey not only holds nutritional value, but its ubiquity also equalizes the population - it feeds the mouths of both the poor and the rich. To learn more about these specific Turkish delicacies in the picture above, join me in this introductory guide to Turkish pastries!
Peynirli, meaning 'with cheese' and poğaça, meaning 'palm-sized pastry' is a simple and savory option for an on-the-go breakfast. This oval-shaped pastry is made of dense dough, covered with sesame seeds with a slit cut open in the middle for the cheese to ooze. It is the perfect combination of a crispy shell and a fluffy interior. The smell of the cheese melting in the oven can entice anyone into the bakery as they pass by.
This delicious pastry is similar to a cinnamon roll but instead of cinnamon - the star of the show is sesame. Slightly sweet, the dough is wrapped, rolled, and filled with sweetened tahini paste, then topped with sesame seeds and baked. Much like a cinnamon roll, the inner layers are soft and tender while the outside is a bit more firm and crunchy. You might be tricked into thinking that the wide diameter of the roll is too large to eat in one sitting but you would be surprised to learn how quickly the pastry disappears, especially with a cup of çay or coffee by its side.
Dereotu is the Turkish word for dill and this pastry is packed with the unmistakable herb. Since moving to Turkey, my love for dill has significantly increased and a lot of that has to do with this delicious pastry. It is a savory and dense bun, filled with salty white cheese and topped with sesame seeds. Like most baked goods, this is best enjoyed when still warm from the oven - I even like to drizzle a bit of honey to complement its salty flavor with a drop of sweetness.
In Istanbul, the pastry is called a simit but in Izmir, it is known as gevrek. A classic to Turkish food culture - the simit has been produced in Turkey for thousands of years. There are historical references and documentations made about the simit that predate 1435, the year of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Over time the simit has slowly evolved into a crispy, sesame covered pastry that perfectly pairs with Turkish cheeses and cup of çay. However other variations include the adornment of poppy seeds or sunflower seeds instead of the modern sesame seeds.
Boyoz is almost exclusively found in Izmir and its history comes from Sephardic Jews, who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and offered refuge in Smyrna - modern-day Izmir. Boyoz can be served plain or stuffed with fillings like chocolate, eggplant, cheese, or meat. Its flaky and buttery layers are reminiscent of a French croissant but the name comes from the Spanish word bollos, meaning "buns." The aftermath of eating one bite results in a crumbly mess on your face and hands but it is worth it. Without a doubt, these must be eaten when still warm - stuff in a slice of tomato, piece of cheese or boiled egg to fit in with the locals.
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