Nuriye Tatlısı: Baklava but different

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Also known as Sütlü Nuriye, literally meaning “Nuriye with milk” this dessert has an interesting history and was hijacked by a popular baklava producer.

What is Sütlü Nuriye?

Sütlü Nuriye, or sometimes referred to Nuriye Tatlısı (Nuriye dessert), is a baklava type made with almonds and as the name suggests with milk as well.

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The origins and etymology

Before diving into the Nuriye part, let’s have a short look at the origins of baklava itself. The traditional baklava we know nowadays is an invention from the Topkapı Palace but the origins of those date back quite a bit further. Desserts resembling baklava date back to the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BCE. According to Franz Maier, the dessert was described as “layering unleavened flat bread with chopped nuts and honey”. Through the centuries their preparation changed but essentially it was a dessert that involved layers of thin dough with nuts.

As mentioned above, modern baklava with its super thin layers of dough, called yufka, were a thing of the Topkapı Palace. At the palace in the mid-18th century, there were very few female cooks in the harem kitchen but one of them was the titular Nuriye, who invented the dessert that was subsequently named after her. The recipe was recorded after a friend of the family enjoyed it so much, that he asked Nuriye to teach it to his cooks, who in turn wrote it down for us to track down nowadays. (1)

The recipe is later recorded in the first printed Turkish cookbook by Mehmet Kamil, the “Melceü’t-Tabbahin” (Cook’s Refuge) in 1844.

Now comes the confusing part: When you google this recipe and stumble upon the Wikipedia page, you’ll find that the owner of Güllüoğlu Baklava claimed to have invented this dessert in the wake of the 1980 coup. He claims that he needed to bring the price of the baklava down but still have some heft to it, replacing the more expensive pistachios with hazelnuts and the addition of milk to make the baklava heavier. In an interview with the daily Milliyet Haber, he said that the name “Nuriye” has absolutely no meaning and just wanted to popularize it among the people. (2) Considering the long history of the dessert and its popularity in the southeastern provinces, it is unlikely that the chosen name was a coincidence. Keeping in mind that Turkey has a slew of female names, one needs to question the name chosen by this brand.

While the recipes share names and ingredients, the original Nuriye Tatlısı is made differently from the commercially sold one and is made to this day in the Hazro district of Diyarbakır in its original form, which is the recipe presented here. In the district, this dessert is usually prepared for holidays or feasts.

Nuriye Tatlısı: Baklava but different

As is common in old Turkish recipes, the exact amount of flour is not precisely given. The phrase “aldığı kadar un” alludes to the amount necessary to make it into a concise dough, usually paired with a descriptor such as “kulak memesi” (ear lobe) to find the right consistency. The amount of flour written here is an estimate and might change depending on what kind of flour is used, the size of the eggs and other factors. As much as this recipe is known as “Sütlü Nuriye” as well, the milky version is not necessarily the only version.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 450 gr flour
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • a bit of water

Filling

  • crushed almonds as much as you like, about 200-300 gr
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • starch for rolling out the dough

Thin syrup:

  • 150 gr sugar
  • 400 ml water

Thick syrup:

  • 150 gr sugar
  • 200 ml water
  • 150 ml milk

Instructions

  • The eggs, flour, salt and water are worked together until you achieve a soft, non-sticking dough.
  • Separate the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them initially a little bit out with the help of copious amounts of starch.
  • Put a few of those pieces onto each other and continue rolling them out until you achieve a very thin dough.
  • Melt the butter and spread some of it onto your baking tray.
  • Put six layers of the thin dough, each by buttering them up with the help of a piece of cotton.
  • Sprinkle the crushed almonds and cinnamon onto the dough layers and layer the remaining six pieces of thin dough in the same manner by lightly spreading the butter onto them.
  • Cut the dough into the shape you like, usually small square slices are preferred. Bake at 170-180C until the dough begins to change in color.
  • While in the oven bring the thin syrup to a boil.
  • Remove the dessert from the oven and pour the still hot thin syrup over it.
  • Place the baklava in the oven again and let it bake until it gets a golden-brown color.
  • Meanwhile prepare the thick syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil, turn the heat off and add the room temtemperatu milk.
  • Give it a good mix and let it cool off.
  • Once the dessert has achieved the right color remove it from the oven and pour the warm syrup over it.
  • Let it soak and serve cooled off.

Notes

Bibliography
(1) Priscilla Mary Işın, “Bountiful Empire: A History of Ottoman Cuisine”, 2018
(2) https://www.milliyet.com.tr/yerel-haberler/istanbul/ihtilal-tatlisi-sutlu-nuriye-nin-trajikomik-hikayesi-10270887
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