Sweet temptation: Istanbul’s beloved ‘brothel dessert’

In the heart of Istanbul, a city steeped in history and culture, there exists a dessert so decadent and rich that it has earned the intriguing nickname ‘brothel dessert.’ This delectable treat has a fascinating origin story and a taste that lingers on the palate. In this article, we will delve into the history of this dessert and provide you with a step-by-step recipe to recreate it in your own kitchen.

The Tale Behind the Name:

Before we embark on the culinary journey of creating this extraordinary dessert, let’s unravel the mystery behind its unusual moniker. Istanbul’s ‘brothel dessert’ earned its name from its connection to the city’s historic district of Beyoglu, known for its vibrant nightlife and, at one time, its brothels. Legend has it that the dessert was created by a talented pastry chef who wanted to entice patrons to his establishment. He crafted a dessert so irresistible that it became synonymous with the district itself.


Sweet temptation Istanbul's beloved 'brothel dessert'

Before you begin, make sure you have the following ingredients ready:

For the Pastry:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • A pinch of salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

For the Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon (for juice)


Sweet temptation Istanbul's beloved 'brothel dessert'

Step 1: Preparing the Pastry

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt.
  2. Add the cold, diced unsalted butter to the flour mixture.
  3. Use your fingertips to gently rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  4. Gradually add the yogurt and mix until the dough comes together.
  5. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2: Preparing the Filling

  1. In a separate bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves. This aromatic mixture will be the soul of your ‘brothel dessert.’

Step 3: Assembling the Dessert

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Take the chilled dough from the refrigerator and divide it into small, equal-sized balls, roughly the size of walnuts.
  3. Roll out each ball into a thin circle, about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
  4. Place a generous teaspoon of the walnut filling onto the center of each pastry circle.
  5. Fold the edges of the pastry circle over the filling to create a half-moon shape, sealing the edges by pressing them together.
  6. Place the filled pastries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Step 4: Baking

  1. Bake the pastries in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.

Step 5: Preparing the Syrup

  1. While the pastries are baking, you can prepare the syrup. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly.

Step 6: Assembling and Serving

  1. Once the pastries are out of the oven, immediately drizzle the hot syrup over them, allowing them to soak up the sweet goodness.
  2. Let the ‘brothel desserts’ rest for a few hours or overnight, allowing the flavors to meld and the syrup to penetrate the pastries completely.
  3. Serve these delightful treats with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Istanbul’s ‘brothel dessert’ is a culinary masterpiece that has stood the test of time, offering a tantalizing blend of flavors and a fascinating history. As you savor each bite of this sweet temptation, you’ll be transported to the bustling streets of Beyoglu, where the dessert’s legacy continues to thrive. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and embark on a journey of decadence and indulgence in the comfort of your own kitchen.

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