All you knead this Christmas
It's time to try innovative sweets this festive season. A new Turkish confectionery store in Fort makes baklava that's more nutty and syrup-soaked than its Middle-eastern cousin. And in a community homage to South Mumbai, they are keeping it pure veg
It's a Thursday afternoon and the Metro construction work at DN Road is on full throttle. But the din subsides the moment we step into Hurrem's, the country's first singularly Turkish confectionery store.
Fortified by floor-to-ceiling soundproof windows, it's an elegant oasis that also houses a café and a nut bar. The draw, though, is the house-made, butter-brushed Turkish baklava. The space offers over 15 gobsmacking varieties, including classics like the sobiyet, a triangular-shaped baklava with 13 layers of phyllo pastry, stuffed with clotted cream and pistachios. The havuc dilimi is a triangular variety packed with dry fruit and served with ice cream.
Havuc Dilmi With Vanilla Ice Cream
Interestingly, Ahmed Farid, co-founder and promoter of Prime Foods and Confectionery LLP, had little to do with hospitality until Hurrem's. He heads Bevora Floors, a firm that makes waterproof flooring. "I come from a family of foodies and we love baklava," says Farid, 28. He decided it was time for someone to fill what he thinks was a "gaping hole" in the market for Turkish sweets. "There was no better time. Indians are beginning to discover the country."
Farid's study of the market revealed that the supply of authentic baklava was largely sporadic. "What was available was the Middle-eastern version, which has a low nut content, is more flaky and has less moisture," he says. Over the last year, Farid and his team have made trips to Turkey, which is where they met Hurrem's frontmen, chef Sefa Sülüker, who is chief baklava maker, and savoury chef Mehmet Cam. Both hail from Gazientep, a southern Turkish city known for its pistachio and kebabs.
Dorek Bread Stuffed With Cheese, Spinach
"Most baklava makers in Mumbai have been locals. While they have tried to replicate what you find in Turkey, it just wasn't the same," says Farid. For him, the challenge was not only to bring down the chefs, but to convince them to create the whole array of Turkish sweet delicacies in vegetarian versions. "The South Mumbai market demanded it," he shrugs.
The space, designed by Turkish-American architects Özlem Kulaç and Berkay Kars, spells royalty and is consciously named after Hurrem, the wife of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman. "She was responsible for the democratisation of baklava, which was, at one time, available only to the royals," says Farid. According to him, the true mark of a good baklava is air-thin phyllo. "It's an art. The version we make is 0.01 ml thin."
Chefs Mehmet Cam and Sefa Sülüker
Inside the kitchen, Mehmet Cam has earned the moniker Speed for the breakneck pace at which he bakes pide, a flatbread with toppings, and borek, a traditional Turkish bread stuffed with cheese and spinach. "It's not unusual when baking is all that you've done your whole life," he laughs. Cam was introduced to baking at 10. His story is no different from Sülüker's, who is busy making a batch of ceviz burma, phyllo rolls stuffed with walnuts, perfect for those who prefer mildly sweet desserts this festive season. Our interaction with him is facilitated by a mediator, and Sülüker is apologetic about his poor English.
Over the last four months, however, he has managed to establish a working hold on the language, enough to get him by with the team. "In Turkey, baklava is made at home often. In fact, when I was younger, I used to participate in baklava making competitions," says Sülüker, a fourth generation baklava chef. He started making the buttery treats when he was nine and hasn't stopped. "It is more than just a family business for us; it's something we live and breathe."
The thickness of the phyllo layer Hurrem's baklava boasts
What: Hurrem's Turkish Baklava Confectionery
Where: Taj Building, Fort
Timings: Monday to Sunday, 11 AM to 12 AM
Price: Rs 210 onwards
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