Güllaç is a traditional Turkish dessert made of several layers of thin corn-starch pastry which are soaked in rosewater-infused milk. The thin pastry sheets are stuffed with walnuts and topped with pomegranate seeds and crushed pistachios. This dessert is light and refreshing, so it’s perfect for the warmer months!
There are a few Turkish dishes that are very popular during the month of Ramadan, and this is definitely one of them. It's preferred during Ramadan as it’s light and easy to prepare so it's perfect for serving after a long day of fasting. This dessert has been a favourite in my household ever since I can remember, and for me it symbolises the coming together with family and friends as it’s a dessert made to be shared.
HISTORY OF GULLAC
Güllaç is a traditional Ramadan dessert that dates back to the 15th century. Güllaç sheets and other dried doughs were commonly made in the Ottoman era as they were easy to preserve. During the Ottoman era Güllaç sheets were made by combining corn-starch and flour and then air drying the thin wafers. The dried wafers would last for several months, so when they wanted to use the wafers to make Güllaç, they’d soak them in a syrup made of milk, sugar and rose water. As the ottoman empire became wealthier, this delicious dessert found its way to the palace and was made more decadent with the addition of walnuts, pistachio’s and pomegranate seeds. You might have noticed that many of traditional ottoman desserts are flavoured with rose water, this is because Islamic beliefs place importance on good smell, so the addition of rose water was used to add a pleasant aroma as well as a refreshing taste.
WHERE TO FIND GULLAC
Making Güllaç sheets at home is a long and tedious process, so most people prefer the shop-bought sheets. The good thing is that the Güllaç sheets sold in shops are made from completely natural ingredients and they don’t contain any preservatives, so they’re just as good as the home made kind! The Güllaç sheets can be found in any Turkish supermarket or Turkish pastry shop.
CAN I USE FILO PASTRY INSTEAD?
Absolutely not! This is a question I’ve been asked many times, and I want to clarify that you cannot use filo pastry as a replacement for the Güllaç sheets. Filo pastry always needs to be cooked before soaking in syrup, whereas the Güllaç sheets do not, so they both have a completely different texture.
NOT A FAN OF ROSEWATER?
The rose water gives the Güllaç a lovely aroma and adds refreshing taste, but if you’re not a fan of rose water, you can omit this ingredient and it’ll still taste great. Alternatively, you can add other flavours such as vanilla extract or orange blossom water.
INGREDIENTS YOU'LL NEED
Ingredients (9 servings):
330g güllac sheets (10 large sheets)
1.8L Soya or cashew milk (7 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp rose water
300g caster sugar (1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp)
100g walnuts, finely chopped (1 cup)
30g pistachios, finely chopped(1/4 cup)
3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
9 Glace cherries
TIPS FOR MAKING GULLAC
*Be sparing with the rose water – if you’re a lover or rose water you might feel tempted to add a few extra drops, but don’t! Rose water, especially if it’s a good quality brand, can get overpowering really fast, so unless you want to feel like you’re chewing on a rosebud, then I would strongly recommend you use the amount that’s listed in the ingredients.
*This dessert is even better when made a day in advance as the Güllaç sheets have more time to absorb the syrup and for the flavours to infuse together. Add the garnish right before serving so the chopped pistachios don’t lose their crunch
*If you prefer not to use pomegranate seeds and pistachio as garnish, you could also use flaked almonds or crushed hazelnuts instead. These are just a few examples, but you can add any garnish of your choice.
*If you’re not a fan of rose water then you can omit this ingredient and it’ll still taste great. Alternatively, you can add other flavours such as vanilla extract or orange blossom water.
*If you don’t have a tray big enough for the Güllaç sheets to fit, then you can cut them up into smaller pieces and use a smaller tray; the shape of the Güllaç sheets don’t have to be perfect as any unevenness will be disguised when the syrup absorbs into them.
Cover the top with cling film and store in the fridge. Güllaç will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days. This dessert is best made a day in advance as the Güllaç sheets have more time to absorb the syrup and for the flavours to infuse together. Add the garnish right before serving so the chopped pistachios don’t lose their crunch.
HOW TO MAKE GULLAC
Place the soya milk and sugar in a pot and cook on a medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the rose water. Let the mixture cool down at room temperature.
After the milk has cooled down, place one Güllaç sheet into a medium (12 inch) tray and sprinkle a few tbsp of the milk on top. Then wait for the milk to soak in and repeat the same process with 4 more Güllaç sheets.
After the fifth sheet, spread the chopped walnuts in the tray, then lay the remaining five sheets one by one repeating the same process as the first five sheets. Pour any remaining milk on top of the final sheet of güllaç. Place the güllac tray into the fridge for about one hour. The güllaç sheets should have absorbed all of the milk at this point.
Take the Güllaç out of the fridge and cut it into 9-12 pieces and sprinkle each piece with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds and serve chilled.