In Turkish culture, there are some certain dishes which are made on special days or occasions. Sesame Rings, which I wrote on before, are one of them. And today I want to share another special dish made just in Ramadan month. This is a simple, but tasty dessert called gullac (güllaç in Turkish letters). I don’t want to translate it into English as it might be nonsense. And I didn’t rename it in English as I couldn’t find what I could call it. If you have any suggestions seeing the photos or reading this post, I’d be so glad to hear. In Turkish gül means rose and aş means food; gullac is the abbreviation of güllü aş, which means food with rose. Noone calls it güllü aş today, gullac is easier to pronounce, so it is the modern name of this yummy dessert. So what is the relation of rose with this dessert? Actually, it’s not the rose, but rose water which has that relationship. Rose water used to be the main flavor in this dessert in Ottoman culture because of its refreshing effect. However, today, it depends on your taste to add rose water or not. Some people use it, some don’t. Personally, I don’t love its flavor in gullac much, so I prefer not using it. But it doesn’t mean it tastes bad, it gives a quite refreshing flavor to the dessert.
Another Ottoman tradition about gullac is that it’s always decorated with pomegranate and I love to see these cute red beads on the white surface of this dessert. I think they complete each other and address to our eyes first. And I love to add a third wonderful ingredient for garnish. Pistachios! When you have these three at the same time, the pleasure you feel doubles.
You can see gullac at patisseries and at markets just in Ramadan. Just like dates,in Turkey it is special for Ramadan. This simple and easy dessert is made from gullac sheets. You may think that they are similar to phyllo sheets, but these are totally different. Gullac sheets are so white, thin and crispy. Today, people don’t make these sheets themselves as it requires special talents. These are sold in packages at the markets. And there are about 15 sheets in a package. As far as I know, there are two big companies producing and selling gullac to markets, Saffetabdullah Gullaclari and Istanbul Gullac.
Gullac sheets are simply made of corn starch, wheat flour and water. In the early times of Ottoman Empire, people used to make sheets from corn starch, flour and water and they could keep these for months. As these sheets are dried and got crispy, people used to soften them with milk and sugar. I guess it wasn’t a kind of dessert those times, but people used to have it as a main dish. The best part of it for those peple was its simple ingredients. And keeping the dried sheets for long might be the second reason for people to love it. Then as the empire got richer, it turned out to be a dessert special for the palace and it became sultans’ favorite. And today, when you tend to buy the dessert (not the sheets) from a patisseire, you will see that it’s not that cheap. It has that fame as the palace dessert thanks to sultans, it deserves to be expensive, doesn’t it? Business people always know their job!
You can find how gullac sheets are prepared here. As you’ll read here, these sheets are completely natural, they don’t have any additives. Moreover, it is a very light dessert. These are just two of the reasons why people prefer gullac to end their iftar meal with something sweet. You know, in Ramadan, muslims don’t eat or drink anything from sunrise till sunset, so their body needs more sugar than usual because of hunger. Besides meeting people’s sugar need, gullac also strengthen their bodies with vitamins B and E it contains.
Put milk and sugar (and 1 tbsp rosewater if you like) in a pot and heat it until the sugar melts. Stir it occasionally. It shouldn’t be too hot to touch, so let it cool a little. When it gets warm enough, we can start to make our dessert. If you use it hot, your dessert gets mushy.
Lay a gullac sheet on an average size tray. Wet it with the warm milk. Repeat this with five sheets. After the fifth one, spread the crumbled walnut on it. Then lay the rest five sheets one by one and wet each of them with milk. When you finish with the tenth one, pour the rest of the milk on it. They don’t need to be very good in shape while arranging them in the tray. They will combine when they get wet with milk. After pouring the milk, you will see the sheets are rising, do not touch them. Cover it with stretch film and put it in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
I always leave the garnishing part to the serving time, otherwise pomegranates and pistachio may change the color of gullac. After taking it from refrigerator, cut it in squares or rectangles, garnish and serve.