IT’S ICE CREAM SEASON… THE TIME FOR COLD SWEETS, MADE IN THE OLD DAYS WITH SNOW…
Summer desserts in the old days were made with snow, pristine snow from high in the mountains, which had a fantastic taste when topped with jam or fresh fruit syrup.
During the reign of Beyazıt II, the “Imperial Snow Factory” was set up in connection with the Palace in Istanbul to supply the requisite snow for the summer. Snow and ice were very important to Ottoman Palace residents, who were accustomed to a high quality of life, but were widely used by the common people as well.
A cold dessert called “karsambaç”, which is still popular today in places like Fethiye, Kastamonu and Çankırı, can be considered the forerunner of ice cream in Anatolia. A sort of “snow cone”, karsambaç is made by drizzling either grape molasses or orange or cherry syrup over fresh, clean snow in winter or shaved ice in summer.
Snow stored by nomads in caves high in the mountains was brought down to the plains, sweetened with the topping of choice and sold in bowls on hot summer days. In the winter, it was made more easily with freshly fallen snow and consumed widely in toasty warm rooms.
Summer desserts were light and - considering how difficult sugar was to come by in those days - relatively low in sugar since they were made with only a small amount of molasses. The “paluze” (blancmange) made in Rumelia with tart fruit was made in the Black Sea region with cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), while on the shores of the Aegean cold cottage cheese was topped with mulberries for a summer dessert.
People who live in Mersin, Adana and Antakya today add cornstarch and fruit syrup to snow brought down from the Taurus Mountains in summer to make “bici bici”, which is cool and refreshing on a hot August day.
SEMOLINA PEACH CAKE
1 kg peaches
500 g sugar
600 g white cheese (Feta)
500 g semolina
1 packet baking powder
For the syrup
1 liter water
1 kg granulated sugar
half a lemon
Peel the peaches and boil in water with 100 g of sugar to prevent discoloring.
Place all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Dice the boiled peaches and add to the mixture. Pour the batter into a cake pan and bake in a pre-heated 150C oven for 45 minutes. When the cake is done, pour the syrup over the hot cake and cool. Serve with peach slices if desired.
1 kg flour
20 g salt
300 g green pistachios
200 g grape molasses (Turkish pekmez)
200 g tahina
half a liter of water
Mix the flour, water and salt and knead to a soft dough. Let stand for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into four parts and roll out thin with a rolling pin. Using a brush, spread the dough with the tahina-pekmez mixture and sprinkle with the finely ground green pistachios. Fold the dough rounds over so the nuts are on the inside and bake in a pre-heated 160C oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread with butter.
COLD YOGHURT DESSERT
450 g yoghurt
150 g sugar
200 g white chocolate
150 g cream
Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Beat the yoghurt, cream and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate all at once (if you don’t, it could solidify again). Then pour the mixture into glasses or teflon muffin tins and freeze in a deep freeze for two hours. Top with raspberry/strawberry sauce before serving.
250 g strawberries
250 g raspberries
100 g granulated sugar
Boil all the ingredients together in a saucepan for five minutes and cool.
Puree a kilo and a half of sliced watermelon in a blender. Let stand in a deep freeze in a large metal container for 5-6 hours, removing once an hour to break up the ice crystals with a fork. Transfer to a frozen sorbet bowl and serve.
Cantaloupe may be used in place of watermelon if desired.