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A Lesson on Tahinl


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hi there everyone --

for a while i have been thinking about contributing something to eGullet. since i love food -- like most of us here -- in its many forms [not to mention making it], i decided to to put together an item i have loved since i was little and show how to do it.

it is called tahinli and is a turkish pastry/bread which is quite addictive. as u can surmise from its name, there is tahina (sesame paste) involved. it is also eaten by armenians and cypriots and is also available in israel (and a whole bunch of other places, i am sure).

this "e-how" is very picture-heavy so...this will probably take quite a few pages. i love to look at pictures, and i hope u do to.

on with the lesson...feel free to ask questions. oh yes, it's not really a "diet" item. :shock:

btw..."avec la farine que ca prend" is an expression i have heard for many of the recipes i have from my family. it translates from French as -- with the flour that it takes. this always meant: don't ask me measurements! just add the flour and u will see. :wacko: (i measured for u all, LOL).

Tahinli 101

tahinli is a yeasted pastry so we start with:

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we wait a bit .... doo, doo, doo, doo..... and hope there is life left in my yeast (c'mon fleischmann's do ur work!)

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yes...ignition!

while that is doing it's business, i get the other ingredients ready : butter, shortening (or standard olive oil), an egg and some milk.

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all these things are added to a bowl (i kinda like the look of this picture):

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and then, mixed:

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oops! forgot the sugar (yikes :shock: )

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can't have pastries without sugar!!

next goes in salt -love this very finely processed grey sea salt from France- and AP flour

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now back to "la farine que ca prend" for a minute. most of us younger people learned to cook and bake with EXACT measurements and are lost without our measuring spoons and cups and scales (hehe, me for one!). my parents and relatives cooked alot by eye and feel. no need to measure, no need to weigh. this always annoyed me when i asked the simple "how much" question and got the standard -- "comme ca" answer (like this, with some hand gesture). one of the typical "immigrant" measuring implements i have which was used alot is "le verre", it's a middle eastern tea cup. u just add "un verre de ca" -- a cup of this and that.

here it is:

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don't u just love a blurred image?

another item that is special that goes into this pastry is called mahalab (mahlep) and is the ground interior kernel of some kind of apricot (or is it a cherry? think it's a cherry). anyway, it gives a very distinctive taste to baked goods. it tends to clump a bit so i always smash it a little with a cleaver to break it up. i keep it in the freezer for freshness. this is it:

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while it's not going to make or break the recipe, it is more authentic and tasty with its addition.

so the flour and salt are added and mixed as seen here:

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onced mixed, u get ur standard dough --

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which is then put on the counter to be kneaded

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the stuff in the shaker is my bench flour. i find it easier to use this way.

it's pouring rain -- need to close all the windows! will be back to post more later with my sous-chef de cuisine. he's very cute. :wink:

Edited by ohev'ochel (log)
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....now that the deluge is over (two of my rooms had water leaking in from this onslaught of rain. a big mess :angry: )

so ... my sous-chef, le-voici (here he is):

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i call him affectionately, "signor boureka". it's a term (boureka) used by relatives for something tasty. dunno how to translate it but u get the picture.

he is now only 6 months old and is a sable burmese. he has quite the purrsonality and loves being on my shoulders as u will see. he also loves directing me perched and stretched across my neck telling me to add more of this, less of that, and to diteknead the dough more. :wink:

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he is still a big baby and i don't normally let him in the kitchen (i hear people saying that's not hygenic!). i am letting him make his debut for this posting.

so....the dough has now been nicely kneaded for several minutes a la main (by hand).

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it now goes into the greased bowl to take a rest and let the yeast do its business.

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it goes to its special proofing box (aka my microwave oven). a hermetically sealed environment where the moisture is maintained as it slowly proofs.

after one hour of proofing:

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and now....

after two hours!

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a life of its own, it has. it proofed beautifully. phew! :wacko:

and now for the fun part!! releasing my aggression on this beast. after a good whack --

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i hope i didn't hurt it (i was actually thinking of a particular person at the time! :shock: )

here is the next shot:

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now that has been taken care of, i will show u my other "friend". i am very meticulous (ok, anal retentive) when it comes to measurement. i invested in something that cost me a pretty penny but i don't regret it one bit. i have gotten good use out of this:

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my beloved Edlund scale. it's "the bomb". lol

so now it's time to weigh and divide --

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here, i am dividing it to yield 6 pastries.

here they are:

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***oops, i replied instead of editing***

after dividing, the balls of dough go to sit again (the 6th one is on another plate).

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the following are the ingredients for the filling: oil, tehina, sugar and orange flower water

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so everything goes in the bowl:

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and then mixed:

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that gets set aside, and then after the 2nd rising of the dough it is rolled out.

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the dough is stretched and then i usually wait a few minutes for it to relax so i can keep rolling. this dough is very supple however and easy to roll.

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here is the fully rolled out size:

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next step is to add some of the tehina mixture--

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the tehina needs to be spread out thinly almost to the edges, thusly:

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it now gets rolled up -- tightly:

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then the ends are pinched closed so they do not open up.

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once that is done, then u need ur counter space as this thing is rolled out to quite a length. a little at first:

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and then --

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don't ask me how long! c'est comme ca!

the next part is fun (and annoying if ur doing it alone). u need to twist the long piece of dough quite a few times taking care not to do it too much or it will snap.

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u may need ur glasses for this photo, it's terribly blurred. i stupidly deleted the good one.

now, the pastry is coiled LOOSELY with end tucked under.

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if it's coiled too tightly it won't rise properly.

here they are ready for the final rising:

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nearing the end....

these are the ingredients for the final stage before baking. the egg wash and flavourings: orange flower water & sesame seeds.

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after the final rising, they will look puffed up and kind of strange with the middle popping out (that's why u don't wind too tightly!). don't frett. it will be fixed in the next few photos.

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the dough may also tear superficially but that is fine also. it doesn't do anything to the final product.

next the pastries are lightly rolled to deflate them. they shouldn't be rolled too thinly, just about half the size. the dough is then brushed with orange flower water and pricked all over with a fork so it won't puff up in the oven.

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the dough will crack a bit, that is normal. the insides should NOT ooze out though.

the next photo is terrible but it is basically the dough egg-washed and pricked with the fork, before being sprinkled with the sesame seeds. put quite a bit of sesame seeds. it shouldn't be sparse. don't overdo it either.

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after baking for about 1/2 hour at 350, it should look like this:

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here is another:

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the final product is a crisp and buttery, sweet pastry not over done with the taste of sesame. they are great with strong turkish coffee or regular coffee for that matter. they also freeze nicely.

so that's it folks. hope u enjoyed it. i had fun doing this. but it was ALOT OF WORK!! :wacko:

if anyone wants this particular recipe, let me know and i will post one here.

time for bed!

-------------------------------

edited to add the following:

Tahinli [sesame Seed Paste Filled Pastries]

The following recipe yields 6 five inch pastries or 4 large ones. Not really a beginner's recipe but just follow the above instructions and you should not have a problem. Message me if you need help. These can be made Pareve (non-dairy).

Ingredients:

1 heaping teaspoon dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1/3 c. warm water

1/4 tsp salt

2 - 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/8 - 1/4 tsp mahlep

2 tbsp unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine

1/4 c. milk (or soy milk or water)

1 1/2 tbsp oil or shortening (melted and measured)

1/8 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 egg

1/2 c + 2 tbsp tahina (sesame paste)

1/2 c sugar

2 tbsp oil or melted butter

2 tsp orange flower water

2 tsp chopped shelled pistachios per pastry (optional)

4 tbsp orange flower water for coating pastry

1 egg (for eggwash)

raw sesame seeds

sugar (granulated or demarera)

Directions:

Proof yeast with warm water and sugar. Set aside approximately 10 minutes.

In a pyrex 2 cup measuring cup (or small pan) heat the milk and melt the butter in it. Transfer this to a mixing bowl and add the oil or shortening salt and sugar and mix well. While still warm (not hot!) add the egg and yeast mixture and mix well with a whisk. In another bowl, mix the salt, flour and mahlep. Add this to the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until you get a dough. The dough will be slightly sticky and depending upon humidity and measurement, you may need a bit more flour. Start with the 2 cups and add more gradually while kneading. Remove the dough and knead the dough using/adding the extra 1/2 if needed. It will get less sticky as you knead more and after proofing. Once you have a nice dough, place it back in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap. Put the dough in a warm area (inside a microwave works well) and let proof for approximately 2 hours (until doubled). Punch down the dough and place it on counter and knead it for a minute. Divide the dough in 4 to 6 pieces. Let the balls rest about 25 to 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, place the tahina, sugar, oil, and orange flower water in a small bowl and mix well to incorporate. The mixture will be granular. When the balls have proofed, start to shape the dough. Roll each ball one at a time into a disk between an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Try to make them all the same size. If making 4, it should measure about 11 or 12 inches. Less if you are making 6 pastries. Then divide the tahina mixture evenly for each pastry, approximately 3 tablespoons each. Spread this out VERY thinly almost to the edges. If you like, sprinkle 2 tsps of finely chopped pistachios on each one. Now roll each round fairly tightly all the way to the end. Pinch each end closed. Then slowly and gently roll each pastry back and forth with your hands to extend it starting at the middle. Don't worry if small tears occurs. The final dough will be almost as long as from the tip of your fingers to your elbow. Now (perhaps with a helper) twist the long strand of dough gently over and over again. Don't overtwist or you will snap it. Once that is done, have 2 baking sheets ready either lightly greased or lined with parchment. Coil the pastry loosely from the center working outwards and tuck the very end underneath. Place equal amounts of finished pastry on each sheet. You need the space for the final rolling. At this point, preheat your oven to 350 F. Let your pastries proof an extra half hour but you do not need to cover them. At this point, they may look strange with the centers popped up. That will be fixed with the rolling. You may also notice small amounts of oil weeping from the pastry. This is normal. After about 15 minutes of waiting, beat the egg in a small dish and have a pastry brush ready. Measure out the 1/4 c. of orange flower water. Have the sesame seeds ready in another bowl and some sugar in another. Now flatten each pastry with a rolling pin gently to half it's size (deflate it). Then prick it all over with a fork to arrest it's rising in the oven. Using a pastry brush wash the pastries with orange flower water all over. Then use the egg wash. Now sprinkle each pastry generously with sesame seeds and finally with sugar (it will make a nice crust when baked). Bake pastries for 30 minutes or until golden brown. You may freeze the pastries (if you have any left!). These taste great warm(ed).

Edited by ohev'ochel (log)
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...

btw..."avec la farine que ca prend" is an expression i have heard for many of the recipes i have from my family.  it translates from French as -- with the flour that it takes.  this always meant: don't ask me measurements! just add the flour and u will see.  :wacko:  (i measured for u all, LOL).

...

Thank you, ohev'ochel, for this wonderfully detailed and funny demo--and for measuring for us! My grandmother says the same thing! The recipe sounds and looks so good; I've already bookmarked this page.

A question, and sorry if I missed this, but where is the mahalab (mahlep) ingredient added to the recipe?

Also, any tips on buying a good tehina? I guess trying to source it from a Middle Eastern market and tasting it would be the best bet...

I love your Burmese sous-chef, signor boureka. He's so beautiful. One of my Tonkinese cats used to love to drape himself across the back of my neck and shoulders also. He would 'help' me with my writing at the computer...

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Thank you for the detailed reply to my question.

I, for one, am also grateful for your detailed photo essay and accompanying text. It is extremely helpful for someone like me who, while baking a fair amount, has very little experience with Middle Eastern pastries--the doughs, how to form the shapes or what they should look like at the end.

Thank you very much!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Thank you for the detailed reply to my question. 

I, for one, am also grateful for your detailed photo essay and accompanying text.  It is extremely helpful for someone like me who, while baking a fair amount, has very little experience with Middle Eastern pastries--the doughs, how to form the shapes or what they should look like at the end.

Thank you very much!

ur very welcome. details are important to me. nothing MORE annoying that having cookbooks with sketchy instructions and my major complaint, no pictures of the final product. this is sometimes a problem when u have no clue what the hell ur cooking! :raz:

Edited by ohev'ochel (log)
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