Turkish home baking is never fussy. It is what has become trendy to call rustic. Set aside baklava and Turkish attempts to recreate French pastry, and you will see something awkwardly shaped without much thrills. Cut with a tea class, shaped with a fork, or pressed with fingertips. Rustic was a necessity decades ago as women were juggling the chords of raising many children, working in a field, doing homework and cooking. With fewer children per houseful and no working in the fields rustic has become a fashion. So these dill biscuits of mine are terribly trendy.
When I see my mother-in-law as she is planting the cat’s tongue cookies on the baking tray as if she is stacking pickles into a jar or when she is cutting her corn bread into free-style pieces I realize this is how things are in her world. Food has to be put on the table no matter the presentation. And it is hard to blame her who served two scrumptious fresh meals daily as she managed to keep up with her running routine, two growing up children and the police officer job in the country struck by a civil war.
My world is different. I have been lucky to pursue cooking as self-expression after I quit my strategy consulting job. And my own perfectionism combined with a rigorous consulting training makes me anxious to excel in what I do. To bring it to the next level. Even if it means impossible, such as making mouth-watering Turkish food look good too. Meaning no rustic stuff. Unless the dill biscuits.
These biscuits represent an important category of savory baked treats that Turks enthusiastically munch down with their afternoon tea. Generously seasoned with seeds such as sesame, nigella or sunflower, they are crowd-pleasers and must be made in huge batches.
I first saw these dill biscuits – at their cookie reincarnation – at a neighborhood bakery where they were, rather dangerously if you ask me, shaped as the bite-size rounds. They were salty and slightly sweet at the same time; full of dill flavor and dotted with the tiny dashes of the chopped wispy leaves. I got enthusiastic to turn these cookies into biscuits at home – light and crumbly and full of dill.
Making biscuits is like painting with large strokes. With swift and light movements I combined the dry ingredients, then worked in the cold butter and eggs. Shockingly enough a Turkish pastry there is no yogurt in the biscuit dough, but then I sneaked in Turkish white cheese, cousin of Greek feta, that lends a hint of sourness and lots of creamy substance to the biscuits. They were in the oven before my husband arriving from the countryside found the parking spot (even though the impossibility of the task in Moda where we live in Istanbul may give you wrong idea of the timing).
Özgür, a fan of savory pastry, certainly loved the dill biscuits. He mentioned how folks at a bakery chain in Istanbul sell them as “homemade poğaça‘ (read’ rustic take’) and don’t feel shy to charge a premium. I laughed. Thinking how easy they are to put together and how unpretentious they look I was bewildered by the fact that someone would pay a premium for them.
But then I recalled myself a strategy consultant alienated from the world of baking and manual work in general. I was going crazy about sourcing rustic foods as these dill biscuits. Spending Sunday afternoons in the bakeries, marveling their rustic pastry and thinking that with buying a bag of misshaped cookies I was getting a little part of something very real.
By the way I have just learned about the controversial bankruptcy of the firm I used to work for (if you care about the future of professional services and consultancy specifically check out this engaging discussion at an Economist’s blog). Which makes me very glad I have timely chosen to cook and bake. Something very real and .. rustic if you wish.
So here they come, my rustic dill biscuits: bake them and, please, gift them to your friends who have not time to make. They will appreciate your effort more than you could imagine. As an ex-strategy consultant I can promise you that. And being ex- make me much more credible these days.
Salty and slightly sweet at the same time the rustic dill biscuits are herb-flavored and dotted with the tiny dashes of the chopped wispy leaves.
Cook Time: 20 Min
Total Time: 35 Min
- 1 1/3 cup (180 g) flour sieved
- 1 tbsp (12 g) sugar
- 1 tsp (5 g) salt
- 1 tbsp (9 g) baking powder
- 5 tbsp (70 g) butter cold and diced
- 1/6 cup (35 g) sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice / fruit vinegar
- 1 medium size egg lightly whisked; reserve 2 tbsp for brushing!
- 3 tbsp (20 g) dill finely chopped
- 90 g feta cheese crumbled
- nigella seeds
- Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
- Make biscuit dough: In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. With your fingertips integrate the butter into the dry ingredients until your dough looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the crumbled feta cheese and dill and mix. Add oil, lemon juice and egg (reserve 2 tbsp for brushing) and knead very gently for the dough to come together – it should stop sticking to the side of the bowl and your hands. Let your movements be light and brisk; no need to overwork the dough.
- Shape and bake cookies: On the dry working surface flatten the dough with your fingers until it is 1.3 cm (about 1/2 inch) thick. With a round cookie cutter (or a shot glass, or Turkish tea glass – whatever you have handy) cut out the biscuits and place on a baking tray lined with the parchment paper. Shape the dough leftovers into a ball, flatten and continue cutting out biscuits – as many as the dough yields. Brush the dill biscuits with the reserved egg and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top of the biscuits firms up and takes on light brown color. Cool down and serve with tea.
And yes, the TURKISH BAKING QUEST goes on. And I hope you are still up to win a Turkish baking set of 5 exciting baking condiments. Just two quests are left until I will chose the winner who has been most enthusiastically taking part in the quest throughout the month. So today’s question: besides these dill biscuits what other savory Turkish teatime favorites have been featured on this blog?