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x0x Every morsel a delight Sweets

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    x0x Every morsel a delight: Sweets By VEDAT BASARAN A sine qua non of social life in the Middle and Far East, sweets gradually began to find their way into
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 23, 2005
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      x0x Every morsel a delight: Sweets

      By VEDAT BASARAN

      A sine qua non of social life in the Middle and Far
      East, sweets gradually began to find their way into
      western cuisines from the 14th and 15th centuries. But
      there are significant differences between eastern and
      western cuisines in the variety and consumption of
      sweets.

      Whereas in the West sweets tend to be light and are
      served at the end of the meal, in the East they are
      served at any hour of the day and are fragrant and
      flavourful and drenched in syrup.

      THE DISTINCTIVE POSITION OF BAKLAVA

      Everyone knows that sweets are a staple of Turkish
      cuisine. Take "baklava", for instance, the Turks' most
      important contribution to the world of sweets. It
      absolutely cannot be made from a mere recipe; only long
      years of experience can impart its special flavor.
      Although many theories have been advanced concerning
      the invention of baklava, none is certain. According to
      Charles Perry, however, a researcher on the history of
      Middle Eastern cuisine, the technique of rolling out
      paper-thin dough originated in this part of the world.

      My own professional experience has led me to believe
      that baklava must surely have developed out of the
      technique of rolling thin dough. The authoritative
      Larousse Gastronomique explains that this technique,
      under the name of "strudel", appeared in the
      Austro-Hungarian Empire during the Ottoman period.

      THE SECRET LIES IN THE THINNESS OF THE DOUGH

      But who invented the technique of rolling thin dough?
      Due to their nomadic lifestyle, the Turks of Central
      Asia carried their cooking equipment with them on
      horseback. The only stove that can be carried on the
      back of a horse is a thin metal brazier, and the food
      prepared on such a brazier has to be thin too so that
      it will cook quickly. The technique of rolling fine
      dough, which was born of the exigencies of nomadic
      life, would develop eventually into baklava. The
      baklava unique to the Middle East and Eastern
      Mediterranean today is compared in some sources to
      "strudel" or "yufka" (Greek phylo leaves).

      But yufka is rolled out in single sheets while strudel
      is stretched and pressed by hand on a piece of cloth.
      In the case of baklava, ten layers of dough at once are
      rolled out paper-thin with a special rolling pin called
      an "oklava". Baklava is actually another technique for
      producing the multi-layered pastry known in French
      cuisine as mille-feuille and in Turkish as "yagli
      hamur". The moisture in the butter spread between the
      sheets of yufka escapes as steam during baking, causing
      them to puff up and separate, while the hot butter in
      between ensures that they are baked to a crisp. The
      crunchy sound you hear when you bite in, the dough that
      melts in your mouth and the flavour that spreads on
      your palate are the key criteria of quality in baklava.

      BAKLAVA BY THE TRAY

      The words "yupa", "yoka" and "yufka" all derive from
      the Turkish "yubka", meaning "thin, friable". But
      clearly a lot of ground had to be covered before the
      technique of cooking layered dough over a flat metal
      sheet on a brush fire evolved into the sophisticated
      baklava of the Ottomans.

      The Turks' transformation of yukfa, a product of
      nomadic culture, into baklava developed hand in hand
      with the high level of culture achieved by the Ottoman
      Empire.

      The highly skilled chefs employed in the magnificent
      Topkapi Palace kitchens naturally provided the optimal
      conditions for progress in the culture of cooking. This
      crucial relationship between baklava and the palace was
      manifested in the tray after tray of this crispy
      layered pastry that was distributed to the Janissaries
      every year in the middle of the month of Ramazan.

      So is baklava the Turks' only contribution to the world
      of sweets? Certainly not. And some of the most
      delectable are Sultans' Milk Pudding, Almond Delight
      and Baked Quinces, whose recipes are given below. Be
      sure to try them.

      [TurkC-L editor's note: Only one of the recipes is
      available.]

      Baked Quince

      Serves 8 for dessert, plain or with whipped cream or
      ice cream

      1 cup water

      Juice of ½ lemon (save the lemon half)

      4 quinces

      16 whole cloves

      1 cup sugar

      Pour the water and lemon juice into a shallow baking
      dish that will accommodate the quinces when cut into
      quarters for instance a 9 by 12-inch Pyrex.

      With a large, sharp knife quince is hard -- cut each
      quince into quarters from stem end to bottom. Rub the
      cut sides of the quarters immediately with the
      juiced-out lemon half.

      With a paring knife, carve out the core of each
      quarter, saving the seeds. With the paring knife or a
      vegetable peeler, peel each quarter. As you complete
      coring and peeling each quarter, immediately turn it in
      the lemon water in the baking dish, leaving it in the
      water.

      When all four of the quinces have been cored and
      peeled, press a clove into the center of the rounded
      side of each quarter. Arrange the quince quarters,
      still in the lemon water, with their rounded sides up.
      Sprinkle them with the sugar. Scatter some of the
      reserved quince seeds around the quarters.

      Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about an hour,
      turning the quinces after 30 minutes, then turning them
      back, clove side up, for the last 5 to 10 minutes. The
      quince should be fork tender actually soft. The water
      and sugar should have cooked down to a syrup. Give them
      a few more minutes in the oven, if necessary.

      Baked quince will keep in the refrigerator, in a
      container where they are just covered by their syrup,
      for several weeks.
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