I have to admit, I have probably been putting off posting about my Turkey adventures for far too long because I couldn't seem to find the words or a recipe to do this trip justice. That, and welllllllllll.... my two attempts at making Turkish Delight were DISASTROUS. And no, I'm not just saying that to seem down to earth or "look at me I may be a food blogger but I'm also human and make mistakes too!". I managed to produce the most inedible, disgusting, gelatinous, oily blubbery blobs of nasty that I think have ever come out of a kitchen. Ever. I had to throw my pots away. I guess some things are best left to the professionals like Hafiz Mustafa who have been making the stuff since 1864. But more about that later. Check out this stop motion I made for my "Around the World in 80 Desserts" themed posts. It was super fun to put together!
I can feel the energy of the place I have traveled to within minutes. Not counting the airport, of course. Those are always chaotic stress disasters and universally the best place to see humans at their worst. I try to do a healthy amount of research before a trip, but I generally want to be able to come to feelings about a place on my own. But one thing that stood out in all my readings about Turkey was hospitality, hospitality, hospitality. In my experience, not many places have the best feelings towards Americans. I can look back at this trip and count the feeling that any person, at any time, would love to invite me into their living room for some afternoon tea and sweets, as among my fondest of memories.
A few more memories...
Every corner, every which way we looked were street vendors selling freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice // Cheese cheese cheese and bread for breakfast // Hundreds of combinations of Turkish delight stacked to the ceiling // Baklava towers // Getting scrubbed and washed like a baby at Caggaloglu hammami, one of the "1,000 places you must see before you die" // sitting in front of a kebab grill and feeling the smoke on my face // scooping up the most perfectly seasoned meat with lavash bread// hookah surrounded by thousands of lanterns and twinkling lights //
After we filled ourselves to the brim with chewy Turkish delight, piece after piece of sticky baklava, all the pomegranate juice we could slurp until our lips and tongue were stained a deep purpley red, and I had stuffed as many turkish cotton towels my suitcase could hold, we were off to the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Urgup to be exact, for a sunrise hot air balloon ride to celebrate my birthday. Now, you should all know I am kinda obsessed with all things space related, and that was what lured me to make the trek from Istanbul to central Turkey for this balloon ride. I may or may not have pretended I was gliding over Mars for part of the ride over this otherworldly landscape.
I love flying. I love to look at airplanes at the airport and in the sky. I love taking off every. single. time.! to this day even though I've been a flight attendant for over four and a half years now and have probably done it thousands of times. But, it's LOUD! And this hot air balloon ride was pure, blissful, silent weaving through the fairy chimneys that made me so overwhelmingly happy I almost ugly cried right there. (The only reason I didn't is because I didn't want to miss seeing anything.) The memories of this ride are so imprinted on me that I can close my eyes months later and recall the vivid color of the balloons, the feel of the heat from the fire on my face, and the smell of the air. Definitely a stunning, life changing experience for me. Do not pass this dreamy balloon ride up if you are planning a trip Turkey. It's well worth the time and money spent.
As if the balloon ride weren't enough to make my birthday special (I would have slept in the airport terminal floor if I needed to) we also had the amazing opportunity to stay in a cave hotel. Rooms inside of a carved out mountain that have been meticulously restored while keeping the culture and charm of its original villager inhabitants of years past.
Now, back to my kitchen disaster and how this recipe for Pomegranate-Pistachio Turkish delight bars came about.
I didn't know much about Turkish Delight before my trip, other than memories of the White Witch from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. So I had no expectations taste wise before wandering through the Grand Bazaar and faced with floor to ceiling shops stacked with the stuff. What I noticed right away was that not all turkish delight was created equal. There was the almost neon plain variety without anything inside, and covered with powdered sugar. Then you had the much more interesting varieties with pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, dried fruits, rolled in coconut flakes, or even drizzled with chocolate. This is the good stuff. It's definitely not cheap but do yourself a favor and cough up the big bucks for more than you think you will need. I regret not buying more! But I thought to myself, no worries, I'll just look for a recipe when I get home and make some for the blog. Hah. HAH! Making turkish delight at home is a finicky, exact process requiring the use of candy thermometers and most of all patience. Maybe someday I will master it, but from my two failures came the inspiration for these bars. So I am not that upset about the mishaps! This recipe is like if pomegranate-pistachio turkish delight and lemon bars had a delicious, delicious baby.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with waxed paper and grease the paper.
For the crust: mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Break off chunks of butter with your fingers and mix with dry ingredients until you have a crumbly dough. Press evenly in your wax paper lined baking dish. Bake 20 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Set aside and cool.
While the crust is baking, prepare your filling. Mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and pomegranate and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Sprinkle chopped pistachios evenly over crust and pour your pomegranate filling over it. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before lifting it out of the pan and cutting it into squares.
Brew a pot of your favorite coffee or tea, and enjoy!
Pomegranate-Pistachio Turkish Delight Bars
2 sticks salted sweet cream butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
The juice of 2 lemons
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with waxed paper and grease the paper.
2. For the crust: mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Break off chunks of butter with your fingers and mix with dry ingredients until you have a crumbly dough. Press evenly in your wax paper lined baking dish. Bake 20 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Set aside and cool.
3. While the crust is baking, prepare your filling. Mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and pomegranate and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Sprinkle chopped pistachios evenly over crust and pour your pomegranate filling over it. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before lifting it out of the pan and cutting it into squares. Dust with powdered sugar and crushed pistachios.