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For the first recipe I tried from my inaugural “Cookbook of the Month” selection, I went the sweet route, making Tarçınlı Elmali Pogača, known in English as Cinnamon and Apple Babies. I know, Turkish name aside, cinnamon and apple babies doesn’t really scream “Turkish” but rather something you’d find in an American bakery. But cinnamon and apple babies are as Turkish as you can get as the recipe is the brainchild of Sevtap Yüce, a chef and restaurant owner who was born in the Turkish capital of Ankara. Although Yüce lives in Australia now, the recipes found in Turkish Fire harken back to wonderful memories of her childhood spent in Turkey. Not to mention, as my Istanbul food tour showed, there’s a whole lot more to Turkish cuisine than just grilled meats.
Yüce’s aim with Turkish Fire is to show readers “how to eat their way through slightly busier modern days with traditional street-style dishes for your own family, big or small.” One of the things I liked most about Turkish Fire is how simple and down-to-earth the recipes seem, even when making the dough for pide, Turkey’s version of pizza.
The nice thing about the cinnamon and apple babies is that unlike some dough pastries, yeast is not an ingredient so no arduous kneading is required. Someone who tried one likened them to “fig newtons,” as in they were sweet but not significantly, so I could see them being a perfect sweet snack to give to children. And if you know someone who doesn’t necessarily like the taste of raw apples or raisins, don’t worry, both ingredients are “sauteed” in a nice cinnamon sugar bath.
Tarçınlı Elmali Pogača (Cinnamon and Apple Babies)
Recipe adapted from Sevtap Yüce’s Turkish Fire
2 cups all-purpose flour
4.5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons plain (Greek-style) yogurt
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (the kind used to make icing)
3 apples (I recommend using any red variety; I went with Royal Gala as that’s what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (don’t scrimp)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons golden raisins (I was generous with this as I love raisins)
Put the flour, butter, and olive oil in a bowl and mix thoroughly, using your hands. Add the yogurt and icing sugar. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes (I did less and the dough was well worked, I thought), until it feels like your earlobe. If the dough feels too soft, you can add a little more flour. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 340 degrees F.
To make the filling, grate the apples, then place in a frying pan (once I had them grated, I squeezed out excess juice to make sure the filling wouldn’t be too soggy). Add the cinnamon, sugar, and raisins and cook for a few minutes over medium heat, mixing well.
Take the dough and break it into walnut-sized pieces. Using your fingertips, spread each piece into a small saucer shape, about 2 inches in diameter.
Put a tablespoon of the filling on one half of the dough and fold the pastry over to make a half moon. Pinch the edges together to seal, then place on a baking tray. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. I melted some extra butter and coated the prepared babies with it for a little extra “glow.”
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold. I ate one right from the oven and it was delicious.