As we're in the second day of Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Festival), the three-day festival following Ramazan, it seems only fitting to acknowledge this with a post about one of Turkey's most famous desserts, künefe. Künefe isn't a dessert particular to Şeker Bayramı; it's just that we don't get to do many sweetie posts on this blog - we're not sweetie people - but, as this bayram is about all things sugar, now is the perfect opportunity.
We like to think of this as dedication to our cause - dedication to filling this blog with as much useful Turkey food and travel information as we can. So dedicated are we that we, savoury loving people that we are, recently found ourselves sharing a pan of super-sweet künefe, just so we could write about it here. Yes, that's dedication.
A serving of künefe, topped with smashed pistachio nutsKünefe - A Meal In Itself!
Although you'll be able to eat this dessert all over Turkey, künefe aficionados (and there are a lot of them in Turkey) will tell you that the Hatay region is where the best künefe is made. The künefe in the photo above is from Fethiye but we were sitting at Mozaik Bahçe when we were eating it and, as they specialise in Hatay cuisine, we're going with the assumption that we sampled - and buzzed from - an authentic künefe portion.
This is a dessert, commonly eaten after a full meal, but we're glad we shared one portion between us. Let's look at the common ingredients:
Kadayıf - Finely shredded phyllo dough (for a rough idea of its appearance, think Shredded Wheat).
Cheese - apparently, there is a cheese special to the Hatay region that fits the bill perfectly - unsalted and stringy. Think mozzarella.
Syrup - This is where we're mixing the savoury with the super-sweet. Many Turkish desserts feature a hefty syrup portion and künefe is no exception.
Melted butter - Okay, calorie counters, you need to look away now. As you can see, künefe is not a dessert for those of you trying to shed the pounds. But then, what Turkish dessert is? This is indulgence on a grand scale.
Pistachio nut topping - Well, it's difficult to imagine a savoury dessert, famous in Turkey's southeast, that doesn't feature the fabulous green of pistachio.
Cracking open the künefeAll of these ingredients are arranged in a tray and then cooked until the cheese, syrup and kadayıf have fused and the topping is golden brown. It's traditionally served with ice-cream or kaymak (a type of clotted cream) but we were already full from our meal and ate the künefe just as it was, in the tray.
The künefe verdict: Well, it's taken a while but we are beginning to enjoy the savoury sweet contrast common to many Turkish desserts. However, as with baklava, this is just too much for us after a full meal. For us, these desserts are best appreciated as standalone sweet treats and will make a more than adequate lunch for those of you who love a good sugar rush.
Have you tried künefe? What's your künefe verdict?