What do you get if you cross the best bits of a gingerbread man, a shortcake biscuit, a fruitcake and a scone?
Well, if you’re me, the answer is a massive crumb based mess. If however, you happen to be a Turkish baker and not cursed with the all the baking acumen of the guy in Pudding Lane who started The Great Fire of London (my skills in this regard are more ‘burnt off’ than ‘Bake Off’) then what you get is a small lump of otherworldly deliciousness known as a kurabiye.
Anyone who knows me will be aware of my love affair with biscuits, not literally, obviously, I doubt Sasha would be impressed by that. Although I don’t doubt that in some dark corner of the internet there is probably a site called ‘cocks and cookies’ dedicated to just such a fetish.
Biscuits are my weakness. I figure if Sash is going to make me work out to Fitness Blender videos of Daniel and Kelly and lift homemade weights (see Sash’s post on ways to stay fit on the road) then I am entitled to start the fight back one-cookie-at-a-time. This isn’t a new thing.
Whenever colleagues at work would turn up with chocolates, donuts or a cake to share I was unmoved. I’ve never been a huge fan of cakes (other than fruit cake) and have a special aversion to the cream containing kind. After refusing such sweet treats repeatedly I eventually developed an (entirely unjustified) reputation for making the ‘healthy choice’ and avoiding sugary temptation. Until that was, someone opened a packet of biscuits.
As a third generation ‘biscuit man’, (my Dad and Grandad having both worked at McVities and I having contributed massively to the success of that company by becoming a biscuit connoisseur and hoovering up every Digestive crumb within a 100 metre radius of my mouth) I feel no shame in admitting that biscuits are my weakness. With a packet of jammie dodgers open anywhere within proximity I have all the self control of a vampire in a blood bank.
As such, I was initially a lot more tempted by the packaged biscuits than the kurabiyes when I first spotted them. Once I had tried them though…I was absolutely smitten.
The kurabiyes at our local bakery, which we consistently but inaccurately referred to as the ‘ekmek’ (which is just the word for bread), were satisfyingly large: around the size of two generously portioned scones taped together.
When people used to talk about ‘rock cakes’ when I was a kid, this was more along the lines of what I had imagined than the minuscule morsels I was usually offered. Unless it’s playing a guitar and has another claim to being called a ‘rock’ cake, I feel that something with that moniker should look more like an actual rock than a piece of gravel. Kurabiyes are more like it.
Aside from being pleasingly substantial and convenient if you are ever required to bludgeon someone to death and eat the evidence, the kurabiye also has the advantage of being beyond delicious.
Essentially a massive fruit biscuit, the kurabiyes I tried and subsequently became addicted to (seriously, they’re moreish in the same way that some people consider cocaine to be a bit moreish, although I’m assured that most people just like the smell of the white stuff) were hard on the outside and soft on the inside.
The crust, sprinkled with crushed almonds, was crisp, whilst the inside had the texture of a scone or a slab of deliciously crumbly gingerbread. The whole thing was studded with dried fruit, in this case raisins and sultanas and with a glass of Turkish tea it was the perfect mid-morning snack, dancing gloriously on the borderline between biscuit and cake with a level of success only previously achieved by the sainted Jaffa cake.
On our recent trip to Istanbul I made a point of searching out and devouring kurabiyes from a number of different bakeries so as to compare them with the hunk of lovely that I was missing from our ekmek in Kayakoy, (the things I do in the name of research eh? No need to thank me).
This involved trying a tasty but slightly disappointing (and outrageously fruit-less) orange flavoured variety, and a smaller but sweeter variant that had much more of a vanilla flavour and a cake-like texture which whilst tasty was not a patch on those I had tried earlier.
Wherever you pick them up though, if you’re in Turkey and pass one of those gloriously tempting bakeries, drop in and try one. You won’t regret it.
Have you discovered any delicious biscuits or desserts while travelling that you now can’t get enough of? Let us know in the comments below!
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