Turkish cuisine is known for it’s nutritious and delicious milk desserts, and ‘güllaç’ is one of them. This white, fluffy, milky dessert is made with layers of paper-thin cornstarch leaves soaked with sweetened milk and flavored with rose water.
‘Güllaç’ is usually garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and ground nuts like pistachios, hazelnuts or walnuts giving it extra flavor and texture.
‘Güllaç’ is a traditional dessert that’s been present in Turkish cuisine since early Ottoman times. It’s said that the Ottoman palace adopted ‘güllaç’ from the streets as early as the late 1400s. In those days, cornstarch, an important staple, was stored by the masses by mixing it with water to form a paste, then spreading it out to make paper-thin sheets. These sheets were left to dry in the open air. This resulted in brittle, translucent leaves of dried cornstarch that could be stored for months or years. When soaked in sweetened milk and rose water, the cornstarch leaves would soften and become translucent. This delightful mixture would become ‘güllaç.’ Once adopted by the Sultan himself, the dessert was refined in the palace kitchens, using different flavorings and garnishes, to become the dessert we know today.
‘Güllaç’ is especially prized during the holy month of Ramadan because it’s light and easy on the stomach after a long day of fasting. In fact, over 85% of Turkey’s ‘güllaç’ consumption takes place during the Ramadan period but ‘güllaç’ can be served anytime of the year.
• 20 leaves of dry ‘güllaç’
• 4 ½ cups whole milk
• 1 ½ cups sugar, more or less to taste
• 1 tsp. edible rose water or ½ tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 cups ground raw pistachio nuts
• Fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish
How to prepare:
1. Begin by putting the milk and sugar in a saucepan and stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and let the milk simmer gently for about five minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the rosewater or vanilla, and leave it to cool down.
2. You can prepare your homemade ‘güllaç’ directly in its serving dish. Try to find a round , shallow glass bowl with a flat bottom and straight sides that’s the same size as the sheets of ‘güllaç.’ This will make layering clean and easy.
3. With a spoon, drizzle the milk mixture over the first layer until it’s saturated. Continue until you’ve made 10 layers and covered them each with milk.
4. On top of the 10th layer, spread most of the ground nuts evenly to cover the entire layer. Set about ¼ cup of the ground nuts aside.
5. After you’ve spread the nuts, continue with another 10 layers of ‘güllaç’ and sweet milk. If you have leftover milk, pour the rest evenly over the top. The ‘güllaç’ will absorb most of it.
6. Sprinkle the remaining ground nuts over the top, and do the same with the pomegranate seeds. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate before serving. The ‘güllaç’ should be very soft and easy to cut through with a knife or spoon, but should still be quite milky. If you feel it’s too dry, add a little more sweet milk and continue to refrigerate.