Güllaç is a classical Turkish dessert, once referred to as “milk soaked napkin”. It is prepared with a pastry of corn starch, wheat flour and water (which used to be wheat flour). Actually I think you can replace it with rice papers used for Spring Rolls. It wouldn’t be the same but it would be close enough. Traditionally the pastry is soaked with milk and sugar, the center is filled with walnuts and the dessert is covered with pistachio and pomegrenade seeds. That’s it. Milk soaked napkin.
The dessert is almost exclusive to Ramadan month and it’s a light dessert for after fasting.
The name Güllaç comes from Güllü Aş, meaning dish/food with rose. So often the milk is infused with rose water, or the dessert is served with a spoon of rose water on top.
When Güllaç time came this year I started to think about extraordinary recipes for Güllaç. I wanted to experiment. I took my idea and ran to the Lobby. As if everyone had been thinking about it, ideas flew. And I HAD to experiment!
So we chose the recipe ideas that we wanted to try. It wasn’t possible to try every idea, but even if it was possible, believe it or not, we don’t have the capacity to taste them all! Then we gathered the ingredients and set up our Güllaç Workshop. Actually we made 5 kinds of Güllaç with supplies enough for one normal size so it was not exaggerrated. I must confess my experimental spirit was heavily criticised. Why weren’t we makin one classical? Because trying is fun! Because comparing 5 on a single table is better than eating one! And how else could we choose the best for the next time?
From the Topkapı Palace
But we needed a classical recipe to compare. And, as I said, the name suggests one with Rose and we had to make one! Dear Filiz shared with us a recipe shared between generations in Köprülü Family (a very reputable family in Ottoman administration) so we chose this recipe as our classical trial. I am sharing this recipe in the recipe box below. I reduced the amount of sugar as usual but stick with the original for your first trial. Also I omitted pistachio as I didn’t have any worthy of this dessert!
Also I prepared all my experiments based on this recipe so I will just share differences I made. For each trial I scaled this recipe to 1/5.
Here is what it looks like:
Gum mastic and pecan walnuts
If you don’t know what gum mastic is, stop reading this and go buy some! It is a sun-dried resin from mastic tree (pistacia lenitscus) that taste a-ma-zing! Wikipedia describes the taste as bitter at first, but after some chewing releases a refreshing, slightly pine or cedar-like flavor.
In Greek it is known as the tears of Chios, legend has it that Isidore was beheaded for not renouncing his faith and mastic trees started weeping for him.
So anyway the first experiment had to be close to classic. The first two alternatives people use for Güllaç are gum mastic and vanilla. As we were using vanilla for another recipe, we chose gum mastic.
Pound the mastic. Cook half a spoon of flour in half a spoon of butter, add a glass of milk and hald a spoon of sugar, and mix well. Add the mastic when it is almost done. This is a scaled version of classical mastic custard. Spread the mastic custard in the center layer of Güllaç. We used pounded pecan walnuts on the mastic custard. By the way, we also infused the milk with mastic.
Be careful, mastic is bitter! Two pieces should be enough but taste as you go!
Second part of our experiment was inspired by tiramisu. Someone joked an idea: Nescafe, and we said why not? We used only pounded hazelnuts for the center layer. We used an espresso shot and 2-3 cardamom seeds. Toast the cardamomes beforehand and add them to the warm milk to release more flavour.
We were not the first ones to experiment and someone suggested an interesting combination. We tinkled with it and reached this recipe. For the center layer mix mascarpone, pistachio paste (spread), powedered sugar, nutmeg, vanilla. Add roasted pistachio on top of that. We also added a bit of pistachio spread to the milk, as well as vanilla.
I might or might not have forgotten the existence of fresh strawberries I have bought for this recipe. So go for fresh strawberries instead of dried ones.
Güllaç with caramel, cream liqueur, caramelised almonds, peach
I saved the best for the end! This one is definitely our favourite. First of all we caramelised powdered sugar (turns out it is easier to caramelise and it doesn’t burn as fast!) and we made caramelised almonds with it.
We used salted caramel spread (you can make yourself with sugar, cream, salt), mascarpone, dulce di leche to make the center layer. We thinly sliced peaches and caramelised almonds, then put them on the creamy center layer. Also we added Wild Africa cream and salted caramel to the milk. You can also use Bailey’s or any other cream liqueur. We decorated with caramelised almonds and sliced peaches.
Definitely try this one!
Here is the bonus: the degustation plate!