Sunday, November 22, 2009

Turkish Spice Bread

In Istanbul, my husband and I stayed at the Hotel Tashkonak. We really enjoyed our stay. The room wasn’t huge, but we had our own little balcony and there is a free breakfast buffet every morning.

Nothing about the breakfast buffet was shocking, but it was somewhat different from what you probably think of as a breakfast buffet.  Non-sweet foods were strongly represented, with cold cuts, savory cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and savory pastries all on ample display.

I prefer lots of sugar to start my day, and fortunately, there were plenty of jams and jellies and a large bowl of honey to placate me. I especially liked the rose jelly, which is hard to come by in the states and which is much lighter than most American preserves. The rose jelly was heaven when slathered on the sweet spice bread laid out each morning.

It was this spice bread that really enticed me out of bed after the first day. I make a lot of quick breads, but I still couldn’t tell what was in it. It was dense and moist and had a soft, tender crumb. I started missing it the second our plane left Ataturk airport and was determined to recreate it in my own kitchen.

Turkish Spice Cake

½ cup butter, softened or melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
2 eggs
1 7-oz container plain Greek yoghurt (I used Fage 2%)

½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. anise seed (optional)
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup ground almonds or almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan. Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla, almond extract, and ameretto.

Add eggs and yoghurt.

In separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients, including ground almonds. Add to wet ingredients and stir just until blended.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

This was pretty good for a first try, but I’m definitely going to go back to the drawing board. I think I should have used honey instead of sugar as a sweetener (I was out), and the bread we had in Istanbul definitely had cloves and cardamom. I had wanted to include them, but the grocery store shelves were sadly bereft of these spices when I went. I added the anise in an attempt to kick up the spice profile, and it was good, but it definitely altered the flavor.

After tasting my bread, husband rather snarkily commented that the really, really nice thing about the Turkish version was its moistness. I over-baked the depicted loaf a touch, but I think I’ll use a bit more butter next time; I try to make my quick breads pretty healthy, but if I really want to mimic what we had, I think I need to throw dietary caution to the wind.

Now I’ve been all harsh on my recipe, but this bread is actually quite good. The spices and ground nuts give it an unusual-yet-appealing flavor profile. It’s a nice change from yet another loaf of banana bread. Another bonus is that it uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand … that is, if you have a better stocked spice cupboard than me.

I only had about 10 minutes of sunlight after this came out of the oven, so sorry there are so few pictures.

Printable recipe here.


  1. I suddenly think of the spice "mountains" in that Turkish market picture of yours--beats Whole

  2. I know -- I so should have bought spices while I was there! It just seemed like they would be potentially difficult to transport, so I didn't. :p

  3. Is the rose jelly made from "rose hips"?

  4. I *think* it's actually made with rose petals, but I could be mistaken. It's really delicious, however it's made -- sweet with floral overtones that really complemented the spice bread.

  5. hi,

    actually rose jam (jelly) is made by the petals of a special kind of rose. and i think it's the best jelly ever...

  6. Thanks! I am very fond fond of it myself. :)

  7. Hi, what a great attempt! You can go to to check out if Binnur has the recipe to recreate the spice cake! All the best!