Festive Sweets and Jams

Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

The Festival of Sweets, Şeker Bayramı, marks the end of Ramazan. A three-and-a-half-day event, it heralds the celebratory buying and giving of candy-coated almonds, multi-flavoured Turkish delight, and marzipans. The sweet simit, bread rings, and a special çörek — a sweet bun sprinkled with nigella seeds — are made specifically for this celebration.

Helva is one of the oldest sweets, originally eaten as a dessert. Kar helvası, made from snow blended with sugar, was popular in the palaces and wealthy homes of Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire, but is now extinct. The tradition of specialist helva makers has survived, producing huge sweet blocks of ground sesame seeds, often mixed with whole pistachios or swirled with chocolate. Many of the helva dishes made at home are softer, more akin to a dessert, prepared for special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Helva should never be kept in the refrigerator, and always be served at room temperature.