08 December 2012

Yassi Kadayif: Turkish Dessert "Empanadas" with Sugared Walnuts

I have the keys to the castle. I finally wore Nar down. One of her recipes is mine! Yours! Ours!
Fry time cometh
And it's a good one: Sweet pastry dough stuffed with a nutty filling, then fried (or baked) until golden brown.

Think: ravioli meets empanada and then fill that thought with sugary toasted, cinnamon-kissed walnuts, and then, just in case we're lacking in sugar, quickly dip that thought into a simple syrup bath just as it exits the frying pan. Then either get to the kitchen or go lie down because otherwise that thought might cause you to faint.

I'm not typically a fan of chocolate-less desserts. It's a blessing and a curse. But in this case I supposed it was a blessing because it meant that I wouldn't fill up on something sugary. Filling up--on sugary and non-sugary things alike--is about the only thing I've been doing so far at the farm.
Fried in oil and then doused in a sugar bath? That sounds terrible.
Well, I was wrong. I filled up on these, too. It might even be my favorite non-chocolatey dessert. Biting into these guys is like going home. There's a crispy yet dangerously moist exterior, a doughy, pillow-like layer lying just underneath, and a finish of crunchy walnuts and sugar crystals.

Hopefully I've established that the taste of this thing is magical. But there are three more things that make it wonderful:
1. It's easy. This much flavor out of so little effort? Something that most people have never tried before? It's as though they should be more difficult to make...

2. It's cheap. The only ingredient that flirts with being pricy is walnuts, but if you're feeling squeezed just use something cheaper. Which leads me to point number three...

3. The possibilities are endless. You can bet those sugary fingers that I will be trying these filled with chocolate, nutella, diced fruit, hazelnuts, peanuts, you name it. and that's only for sweet fillings. Savory fillings like spinach and cheese, ground meat and herbs, etc. will be excellent as well.

Recently we met these beautiful dessert empanadas when Nar and Ahmet invited the construction workers working on their future hotel and convention center over for lunch. Combined with the family and volunteers, there were about 30 mouths to feed. Needless to say, the meal was overwhelming in the best way imaginable.
The dessert empanadas were the prefect ending. They went fast.

I'm pretty sure I just heard your stomach rumble, so let's go.

Turkish Dessert Empanadas with Sugared Walnuts 
(a rendition of Yassi Kadayif)
Ingredients
Batter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbp quick yeast
  • 1-2 cups lukewarm water
  • Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Syrup
  • 1 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Optional Eggwash
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • Non-food ingredients: Bowl of water and ravioli press (optional)
    Directions
    Phase One: Mix the batter ingredients, slowly adding  water until you reach the consistency of heavy cream. The batter should be on the thinner side of a regular pancake batter.

    Let sit for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, pulse the toasted nuts in a food processor or chop by hand into small bits, then mix in sugar and cinnamon.

    Warm a large non-stick pan to medium heat, and after the batter has rested, begin making your small "pancakes" by ladling on about a fourth cup of the mixture. Do this carefully, and if the batter seems too thin to hold its shape, add a bit more flour, one tablespoon at a time.

    Once the pancakes show tiny air bubbles showing up on the exposed side, remove them from the frying pan. They should hold their form easily and might have started to become golden on the bottom.
    Notice that the color  gets darker on the edges as it cooks
    The uncooked side of our future empanadas
    Phase Two, Assembly:
    [If you have a ravioli press, place the pancake atop it and proceed]
    Fill the "pancakes" with about 2-3 teaspoons of the nut mixture, but obviously not so much that you won't be able to seal the pancake. It's nice to have a little leftover at the end for garnish.

    Dip your finger in the water bowl, line the inner edge of the pancake all the way around, then  carefully bring one side of the pancake over to the other, making a half-moon (or empanada) shape.

    Press the edges together to seal, then use the tines of a fork to press down all around the flattened edge to make a design (or use the built-in design if you have a ravioli press)
    Remember that you can seal the edge and press down with the tines of a fork to create a better seal and design
    Phase Three, Fry time:
    Line a pan with about 1/4 inch of peanut oil or another frying oil (canola not recommended to to fishy smell it gives to fried foods) and heat to medium-high.

    While the oil heats, combine your syrup ingredients over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts. Remove from heat.

    Once the oil pan is hot, dip the dessert "empanadas" in the eggwash mixture, then add to the pan and fry on each side for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown (If you want this recipe to be vegan, skip the eggwash, no harm done.).

    When finished, move to the syrup and let rest for about one minute. Remove to a towel-lined plate and garnish with extra nut mixture or whole nuts and a dusting of sugar or powdered sugar.
    Try to control yourself and dig in.

    It may seem like a long process when you see the recipe typed out like that, but the whole process is amazingly quick and simple. If you don't like the idea of frying them in oil, baking them in an oven at 350 degrees for abotu 15 minutes on each side should work too, although I haven't yet tried it (yet another recipe to add to our upcoming housesitting stint in Greece--one week and counting!).

    Folks, there you have it. Finally an authentic Turkish recipe from the woman who knows it best. Go pour yourself some Turkish coffee and start cookin'.
    This is the moment where I'm feeling pretty lucky...

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