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Text: VEDAT BAŞARAN Photos: ÖNDER DURMAZ
The incomparable miracle of milk
The most elegant of milk's miraculous products, 'kaymak' delights palates today as a dessert topping.
Milk has a broad role in human life in the history and culture of food. Programmed to be nourished by their mother's milk from the moment they are born, human beings continue to derive nourishment from natural-wonder milk and dairy products for the rest of their lives. Researchers point to Asia as the place where milk-giving animals were first domesticated. And in Central Asia especially, the variety of milk and dairy products and fascinating millennia-old techniques continue to this day.
But milk is a tricky foodstuff. Because it quickly begins to spoil or go bad from the moment it is produced, it can at the same time cause serious illnesses. It is not known how much time elapsed before man invented the conditions for the safe and efficient use of milk. Clearly milk in the beginning presented a conundrum to our ancestors. Certain organisms found in milk foster its transformation into products such as butter, cheese and yoghurt. As milk's original surprises, butter, cheese and yoghurt quickly claimed pride of place in our kitchens for their appetizing properties as well as their high nutritional value. Spreading across the whole world, milk and its miracles became part and parcel of our nutritional systems. The significance of this miracle soon becomes apparent when we consider that there are close to a thousand different varieties of cheese in the world today. Butter meanwhile heads the list of the most sought-after and consumed oils in world cuisines. And known by its Turkish name, yoghurt, one of the most healthful products of the last thirty years, has taken off from the world's tables to even wider uses. It is undoubtedly quite interesting as well that milk and dairy products form a commonly shared taste on the palates of people around the world.
And the secret of that shared taste lies in the appetizing flavor of the fat found in milk. Extracting the fat from milk and adding it to food is a touch of refinement unto itself.
'Kaymak', or clotted cream, is one of the most important sources of flavor in Turkish cuisine, obtained, in the simplest terms, by concentrating the fat in milk. Kaymak today is served mainly alongside stewed quince and pumpkin desserts as well as with pastry-based sweets. But kaymak, whose use dates back much earlier than that of butter, was also used intensively as a cooking oil for centuries. Today is it still used in 'halva', egg dishes and rice pilaffs, and even in the famous Sarayevo kebabs known as 'cevapçiç'. But the difficulty of producing and storing kaymak and the desire to make more efficient use of milk have all impelled people to use oils that can be stored more economically. Clotted cream has become something consumed only on very important occasions as an accompaniment to sweets. The delicate flavor it produces on the palate and in the mind have also made it into a word often used in everyday language to describe the beautiful or best. In the old days especially, both ice cream men and street vendors who carried yoghurt on a yoke hung round their necks used to call out that their products were 'kaymak', in other words, 'the finest and creamiest'.
Although made from the milk of various animals, kaymak is more often obtained from water buffalo milk, which is preferred for its whiter color and its property of clotting, or forming a creamy skin. The experts also point out that water buffalo milk has a higher proportion of fat and solids than other milks. There are fundamentally two types of kaymak in Turkey based traditional production techniques. One is so-called lüle kaymak, the other Afyon kaymak, named for the central Anatolian city of the same name. Kaymak production tends to be concentrated in the provinces of Afyon, Edirne, Kocaeli, Istanbul, Bursa, Balıkesir and Ankara and their environs.
Kaymak is among our oldest flavours. And we should avoid from counting kaymak and its products, among our forgotten treasures.
Apricots Stuffed With Kaymak
Soak the dried apricots in cold water for about two hours. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil the apricots for five minutes; let cool. When cool, split the apricots open with a knife and stuff with kaymak. May be dipped in ground green pistachios before serving.
500 gr dried apricots
250 gr kaymak
1 tbsp green pistachios
250 gr granulated sugar
250 gr water
'Ekmek Kadayıf' With Kaymak
Moisten the ekmek kadayıf with water and let stand about an hour. Melt the 300 gr of sugar in a skillet until it is caramelized. Boil the sugar and water syrup in a separate pot and pour the caramel sauce into the boiling syrup. Gently squeeze the moisture from the ekmek kadayıf, pour some syrup over it and cook over low heat, adding more syrup from time to time. The ekmek kadayıf will need to be cooked slowly for about an hour. Then let cool. Spread the kaymak on the ekmek kadayif and roll up. Top with raspberry sauce or green pistachios according to taste.
1 portion of ekmek kadayıf
(buy ready-made from grocery stores and supermarkets)
2.5 kg granulated sugar
300 gr sugar (for the caramel)
half a lemon
500 gr kaymak
Eggs With Kaymak
100 gr kaymak
a pinch of salt
Melt the kaymak in a skillet; when melted, break the eggs into it. Add the salt, cover tightly and cook over low heat until the eggs are done. Serve piping hot. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or ground cayenne according to taste.
'Gözleme' With Kaymak
1 sheet of yufka (thin round of dough)
2 tbsp kaymak
2 tbsp blackberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 egg white
The yufka is first cut lengthwise into 20 cm wide strips. Place kaymak, blackberries and granulated sugar on the edge of each strip of yufka and fold over and over to form a triangle, binding it together with egg white. Brown in a teflon skillet or 170C oven until golden on both sides. Serve hot. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with ice cream on the side according to taste.