Originally we planned to cut “Bayram, the Movie” for today, but when we took another look, we decided it was just too much, and that we’d rather post about dessert. To quote our friend Bruno, a Parisian native, “Turkish pastries are better than French.” We can think of no higher endorsement. The variety of sweet treats here is outrageous. Of course, there is Turkish delight, which we liked much more than we had expected, especially the rose variety and the almost truffle-like pistachio variety. Nuts figure heavily into many desserts, and bright green sprinklings of pistachios often decorate pastries. The cookies we bought for Bayram featured fillings, doughs and toppings of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, as well as pistachios. Cookies that look rather modest on the outside are often filled with moist and decadent nut pastes. There are seasonal delights, like the sticky-feeling ice cream from carts that were everywhere when we first arrived. The fall here brought out trays of red glistening candied quinces. We are also seeing wedges of candied pumpkin all over the city. This dessert is really fabulous. Our favorite restaurant, Çiya, sometimes tops chunks of their candied pumpkin with a drizzle of tahini. Yum. Our friend Aimee learned the trick of topping vanilla ice cream with tahini and crumbled brownies, which we highly recommend. Tahini also figures heavily into the halva here, a sesame-paste candy. Puddings of all varieties are widely available, especially individual rice puddings with broiled tops. And then there is kaymak, a real discovery for us. This clotted cream like deliciousness is, in its purest form, served as a breakfast dish with honey and white bread. But it is also used very liberally as a dessert topping, especially for the wedges of honey-soaked cake with which we have fallen in love. Like many of the shiny, wet looking dessert choices here, we had assumed it would be cloyingly sweet, but it very strangely is not so. Another of the marvelous mysteries of Istanbul. Certainly this city holds the strangest deserts we have ever tried. Kanafeh is made of vermicelli-like pasta soaked in honey syrup sandwiching cheese and served hot, kind of like a dessert lasagna. Istanbul is also famous for the very odd Tavuk göğsü, or sweet chicken pudding. We haven’t tried this. Yet. We have had several platefuls of dessert at Çiya, where they offer candied green walnuts in their soft shells, candied green olives, candied baby eggplants stuffed with walnuts, and candied tomatoes, all surprising wonderful.
The many kinds of locum, or Turkish delight.
Some Turkish delight flavored with rose water, our favorite.
Bayram cookies. Our favorite was the little tart shell filled with chocolate ganache and topped with toffee. The plain-looking sugar cookie was filled with pistachio paste.
A Bayram gift, homemade baklava from our neighbors. It was the best we have ever tasted.
Our friend Colleen with houses of halva.
The chocolate fountain man on Istiklal Caddesi
Our friend Sarah with her cup of melted chocolate and fresh fruit, topped with chopped nuts and coconut.
Colleen and Shane with Istanbul's sticky-feeling ice cream.
The red desserts are candied quinces, a seasonal favorite.
Our friend Bruno with honey cake topped with kaymak.
Our friends Jordan and Aimee were very excited about their kanafeh, a cheese, noodle and honey dessert that is served hot.
The strange and wonderful candied desserts at Çiya. From the left clockwise are: green walnuts, a semolina cookie, pumpkin, tomato, and, in the foreground, baby eggplant stuffed with walnuts. A dollup of kaymak sits in the bottom corner.