There's no better cure for a winter chill than dessert and a hot beverage from Güllüoğlu in Midwood, Brooklyn. This elegant and cozy Turkish café entreats with over a dozen varieties of baklava and kadayif (shredded phyllo pastry). Various other sweet and savory delights, such as böreği (layered pastry), poğaça (puff pastry), simit (annular sesame bread), acma (Turkish "bagel"), ay çöreği ("moon pastry," or Turkish "croissant"), and acibadem (bitter almond cookie), beckon as well. And, of course, the obligatory Turkish Delight and Turkish coffee are available, too.
Güllüoğlu's (pronounced gü·lü·OH·loh, where ü represents the German ü or the French u sound) history dates back more than a century. In 1871, using a recipe he'd acquired from a chef in Damascus, Güllü Çelebi met with sweet success when he introduced the people of Gaziantep, Turkey to baklava. Five generations later, with an intervening move to Istanbul, the Güllü family continues to operate the business. In 2005, the first American outpost was established as a franchise in Brooklyn. To ensure quality and consistency, the stateside branch imports its products directly from the company's plant in Istanbul. Pastries are frozen, vacuum-sealed, and shipped to Brooklyn, where a baker "trained in the Güllüoğlu tradition" prepares them fresh daily.
It should be noted that, in addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Gaziantep is the pistachio capital of Turkey. The green nut's influence is evident in Güllüoğlu's signature confections, which are crafted using the famed Boz pistachios from Barak. In addition, all pastries are made with pure butter, churned from the milk of goats and sheep from Turkey's Urfa Sihan Plateau and Tektek Mountains. As a result of the foregoing ingredients, the Special Baklava with Double Pistachio ($13.75 a pound) imparts a slight edge—a minutely subtle bitterness not found in the Greek varieties—that mitigates the confection's overall sweetness. Thus, individual elements—phyllo, nuts, and honey—are more distinguishable on the palate and, as a whole, yield a tastier pastry. While I may be tempted to have a typical piece of baklava once or twice a year, I find that a single pistachio-based serving just isn't enough. The stuff is addictive. Baklava is simply more enjoyable when its sweetness does not overwhelm.
Either with dessert or by itself, a steaming cup of sahlep (sometimes spelled salep) can be particularly fortifying on a cold winter's day. In Turkey, it is often used as a remedy for coughs and sore throats. This seasonal beverage is produced from ground, dried tubers of the Anatolian mountain orchid (Orchis latifolia, also called sahlep). The powdered roots are heated with milk and sugar, and dusted with cinnamon, to yield a pleasantly sweet, creamy concoction. Its nearly mucilaginous consistency derives from a nutritious, starch-like substance in the orchid's tubers, called Bassorin. Though it may feel a bit unusual on the tongue, sahlep is a most delicious and satisfying beverage.
güllüoğlu Baklava & Cafe
1985 Coney Island Avenue (bet. Av P & Quentin Rd),
Midwood, Brooklyn (map)
Open daily, 7:00 A.M. till 10:00 P.M.