Ever pick up a cookbook and your mouth literally started watering? What about getting the urge to zip off somewhere exotic when you flipped through a travel book? If you pick up Istanbul & Beyond, a just-released guide to Turkish cooking, we think you’ll be doing both. Journalist Robyn Eckhardt and her husband, photographer David Hagerman, have traveled throughout Turkey for nearly 20 years. Meeting with farmers, fishermen, chefs, and home cooks along the way, they’ve assembled a treasure trove of unique stories and recipes. Now, in their vibrantly photographed book, we can tag along on their inspiring culinary adventure. You’ll find approachable but exciting recipes like Coiled Tahini Buns, Spicy Meat-Filled Bulgur Dumplings, Green Olive Salad With Pomegranate Molasses, and Fragrant Orange Cookies.
Eckhardt attributes the decision to write the book to a spur of the moment trip she and Hagerman took to Turkey’s Black Sea Coast. She tells us, “We were immersed in a cuisine entirely unlike any we’d experienced in Turkey up to that point. There were soups thick with borlotti-type beans, collard-y greens and dried corn, anchovies (and other small fish) dipped in cornmeal and pan-fried, ( … ) dumplings tossed with lots of local butter and crushed walnuts.”
The book includes tons of festive recipes that you may want to add to your seasonal repertoire. If you can find sour or regular cherries in your grocery’s frozen section, Eckhardt says you still have time to make the Sour Cherry Liqueur, which requires a month to age but is “not too sweet and nicely spiced. It says ‘holidays’ to me.” She also has us sold on the Warming Cinnamon Tea with a shot of brown liquor as an after-dinner drink, and the Syriac Spice Bread, flavored with warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Of course, our favorite idea from Eckhardt might be this: “For a special holiday brunch or lunch, or a quick supper after a day of shopping and wrapping presents, Cheese Fondue With Corn Flour —who doesn’t love a cheesy, buttery dip to eat with bread?” We totally agree.
Pick up a copy of Istanbul & Beyond now, but if you want to get a jump on your Turkish cooking, you can check out one of Eckhardt’s favorite recipes, Coiled Tahini Buns, below.
Coiled Tahini Buns
In these lightly sweet bread coils, which are eaten for breakfast or as a snack, with tea, layers of tender buttery dough conceal pockets of rich, nutty sesame paste. These buns keep for up to 5 days and freeze well. They’re best warm: Wrap in foil and reheat in a 350°F oven.
FOR THE DOUGH
- ¾ cup water
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- 4¾ cups (26 ¹⁄8 ounces) bread flour, plus additional for kneading and rolling out the dough
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
FOR THE FILLING
- 2½ cups tahini, plus more if needed
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
FOR THE WASH
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon untoasted white sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons sugar
MAKE THE DOUGH. Put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in another bowl. Beat the eggs and oil together in a small bowl, add to the yeast mixture, and stir lightly to combine. Add the dry ingredients and use your hands or a dough scraper to mix and cut the ingredients together. When the mass comes together, it will be sticky and oily; turn it out onto an unfloured surface and knead, adding up to 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 teaspoons at a time, as necessary, until the dough is smooth and only slightly tacky, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to an unoiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it has increased in size by half, 30 to 45 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and divide it into 8 roughly equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or an upturned bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes. Place the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
ASSEMBLE THE PASTRIES. Lightly flour a large work surface. Place a dough ball on the surface and roll it out to an approximately 10-inch circle. If you started with a regular rolling pin, switch to an oklava or other long, thin rolling pin. Lightly flour the bottom third of the dough and the pin. Place the pin at the top edge of the dough and roll the dough up around the pin as you move it toward you. Stop after every second or third rotation of the pin, lightly place your palms side by side at the center of the pin, and roll it back and forth beneath your palms as you move your hands away from each other along its length. Use a light touch and roll in short strokes. You should feel and see the dough stretching. Continue rolling the dough up onto the pin and stopping to stretch it until it is completely wrapped around the pin. Lift up the pin, flour the work surface again, and carefully unroll the dough onto the surface, turned 90 degrees from its original orientation. Don’t be discouraged if the dough is not a perfect circle, or if it is not much larger than when you started; this just means that you need to apply more pressure to the pin as you roll it out again. If the dough sticks to itself, flour it a bit more heavily before rolling it onto the pin again. Repeat this technique — wrapping the dough around the pin and turning it 90 degrees each time — as many times as necessary to achieve a very thin circle at least 16 and up to 20 inches in diameter. If, when you’ve finished rolling the dough, it’s thicker in some spots than in others, use the rolling pin to even it out. Work your way around the dough circle, lifting the edges to the center to make sure it doesn’t stick, gently stretching the dough as you do so. Be sure not to tear it. Alternatively, use a regular rolling pin to roll the dough out to a 12-to 14-inch circle.
Distribute ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of the tahini over the dough circle. The easiest way to do this is to scoop up a tablespoonful at a time, hold the spoon a foot or so above the dough, and move your hand as you tilt the spoon. Don’t skip the edges of the dough — if you end up with some tahini on your work surface, just use your finger to dab it up and smear it on the dough — and don’t worry about unevenly distributed tahini. Sprinkle 1¾ teaspoons of the sugar over the tahini.
Roll the dough up into a rope. The rope needn’t be perfect, and it shouldn’t be too tight, but try to keep it as thin as possible. If once you’ve rolled the dough into a rope, you find that tahini has leaked out, just wipe it up with your fingers and gently spread it over the outside of the rope. Lay the rope on your work surface parallel to your body. Starting in the center of the rope, with your hands about 8 inches apart, pick up the rope and move it gently up and down while gently tugging on it; it will begin to stretch. Repeat this motion several times, working on different sections of the rope, until it is 3 to 3½ feet long. Alternatively, if you opted to work with a smaller circle of dough, your rope should be about 1½ feet long after stretching. (To complete this step on a smaller work surface, loop the rope back on itself several times and work on a small section at a time.) As you work, try to keep the rope equally thick along its length.
Now twist the rope: Place the palm or fingers of your left hand on the rope about 1 foot in from its right end and, holding that bit of the rope in place, twist it with your right hand. Don’t twist so tightly that the rope curls in on itself, but the twist marks should be visible. Repeat, working your way down the rope, until it is twisted along its entire length.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Form the rope into a loose coil on one of the sheets, leaving an ⅛-inch gap between each ring of the spiral coil. Tuck the end of the rope underneath the outer edge of the coil. With your palm or the heel of your hand, gently press down on the coil to join, but not fuse, its rings. Lay a damp towel over the pastry while you use the rest of the dough to make 7 more coils, distributing them between the two baking sheets and covering with a damp towel as you finish them.
MAKE THE WASH. Beat the egg with the water and salt in a small bowl and brush the surface of the buns with it. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of the sugar and ½ teaspoon of the sesame seeds over each one.
Bake until the buns are walnut colored, 16 to 20 minutes, switching the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the halfway point. Transfer the baked buns to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Once cooled completely, the buns can be wrapped well in plastic wrap and stored for up to 5 days or frozen. for up to 1 month.
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