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Turkish hand pies spark childhood memories for Derya Doğan

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KAYTE YOUNG:  From WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, this is Earth Eats and I'm your host, Kayte Young.

DERYA DOGAN:  Imagine, we have dinner at seven, 8pm and then my baba would take all the çörek to the bakery to have it baked and he's back home at 10pm. It doesn't matter. Fresh hot tea, feta cheese, [LAUGHS] olives, like breakfast.


DERYA DOGAN:  That's like your night breakfast the day before Eid.

KAYTE YOUNG:  This week on the show, we spend time in the kitchen with Derya Doğan. She walks us through the steps of making her version of Poğaça, a Turkish hand pie filled with cheese and herbs. She shares treasured childhood memories of communal baking in her hometown. That's coming up on Earth Eats, stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Food memories, family traditions and cultural touch points. These are some of my favorite things to share on this show. Today we're lucky to have with us Derya Doğan. She's a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy Studies in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.

DERYA DOGAN:  I was born and raised in Southeast Turkey to a Kurdish father and a Turkish mother and I came to the US first when I was at high school as an exchange student, I got a scholarship from the Department of State, after that I went back to Turkey, I finished high school and college in Turkey and then I came back and I went back and then I came back. [LAUGHS] Some point in my life there was quite a bit of back and forth between the two countries. But, now I have been here the last ten years.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Today Derya is gonna make her favorite Turkish dish. It's called--

DERYA DOGAN:  Poğaça, that's what we call it in Turkey. It's basically a savory hand pie and there are so many ways of doing it. You don't always have to use yeast in the dough.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The one she's making today is made with a yeast dough.

DERYA DOGAN:  And it has both regular white flour and some wholewheat. I try to add wholewheat, but also I added some spices.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And she chose to add spices that remind her of her hometown.

DERYA DOGAN:  We have a two Eid celebrations in Islam.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Eid celebrations come at the end of the month of Ramadan and they involve special food traditions.

DERYA DOGAN:  Because bakeries would close on Eid that people had to make their own bread in advance, so we call it çörek and it has some spices like powder, like fennel-- actually my mom just used the fennel seeds and some mahlab if you know about mahlab. It's a whole other type of spices from northern Syria. I think in Lebanon they have it too and in Southeast Turkey. Especially in Mardin, that's an hour south of my hometown. Even Syrian people, mahlab like they have their Easter cookies with mahlab, their wine has mahlab, it's like the top spices.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, is it a blend of spices or is it a spice?

DERYA DOGAN:  No, I can show you. This is it, it doesn't have the most favorable smell. [LAUGHS] It has a very strong flavor.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I was gonna say, it smells pretty mild.

DERYA DOGAN:  But it has a very strong flavor, so--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Do you grind it up a little bit?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah and when I bake I just use this little food mortar and even with fennel I like it ground.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Derya mixed these nostalgic spices into the dough for the Poğaça.

DERYA DOGAN:  And I also added some dried dill. I dry my own dill, like my ginger, like a lot of that I like, I'm gonna dry that, but because it's so humid in Bloomington, I don't dry it in the heat, but I dry it in the cold, I'm gonna dry it in the fridge. And then I use it when I make rice, sometimes I add it in the dough, you can also put fresh dill in the dough. So, yeah it has milk, water and yeast, so now--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so you made that ahead of time, this morning?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yes. Yep. And I also added some butter. It has some vegetable oil, but also butter because butter tastes better. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  Sometimes she makes a different kind of dough without yeast.

DERYA DOGAN:  And when you make that the dough's still soft, but has a different texture. You just use baking powder. I love that too. When I make that in the dough, you add some yogurt, so it makes it soft. When I make it without the yeast, I add some labneh cheese.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Labneh is a cheese made with strained yogurt, it's tangy like yogurt, but the texture is thick and creamy. And when Derya makes this version she experiments.

DERYA DOGAN:  I add buckwheat, gluten free, rye. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's just fun.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The Poğaça that Derya is making today is filled with cheese and herbs.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, there's cheese and Italian parsley. I love Italian parsley more because it has a richer flavor.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And, so what kind of cheese is this that you're--

DERYA DOGAN:  This is feta cheese. To be honest I buy the Middle Eastern feta cheese or the Greek feta cheese. Those are the ones or Bulgarian ones are the ones that I would buy, not the feta cheese at some [LAUGHS] big stores here because it's just not, not the American feta cheese, it's not the same.


DERYA DOGAN:  It really is not the same. And I add some very finely chopped Italian parsley and I'm gonna add some crushed red pepper, black pepper. I usually use, what do you call it the pepper medley, it's like six, seven different types of peppercorn? Yeah, I like the flavor of that. It also has coriander in it and all spice, so I add that too. And sometimes when I make this, what I add to the cheese is walnuts.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh yeah love that!

DERYA DOGAN:  When I add walnuts, I also use it when I make phyllo dough because we also make lots of phyllo dishes in Turkey. That's when I add a lot of ground walnut, but I grind it in the food processor until it's super creamy and then when you eat it, it tastes like meat, but it's not meat.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Though it's not as common, Derya says you can make Poğaça with meat such as beef or lamb with finely chopped herbs.

DERYA DOGAN:  Or with potato, I love that and with potato if you also add some chives or green onion, it ends up being very delicious, oh and also tomato paste, you just add more flavors to it. Some people can just make it with plain potato, plain mashed potato, but I do like frying it a little bit especially when you grate it and then you add tomato paste to it and then just with some oil, roast it a little bit, not so much and then onions, green onions or chives. I like chives better because they're smaller.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Mm-hmm. And, so these are all alternate fillings you could do--


KAYTE YOUNG:  For this kind of bread.

DERYA DOGAN:  Exactly. So, this is the mixture, I love the smell.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh that's the multi-peppercorn?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. White peppercorn, green peppercorn, black peppercorn, red peppercorn, coriander and all spice, all ground and mixed together.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Wow! Did you do the grinding the mixing or you just buy this?

DERYA DOGAN:  Normally I would buy it, but this time I did it myself. The only powder that I already had in the powder form was all spice. I didn't have the all spice seeds, but you don't have to put the spices, I just like doing it.


DERYA DOGAN:  My mom she does, she likes the plainer taste. So, everybody's different.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Derya pulled out a red chili powder from her spice drawer too.

DERYA DOGAN:  And this is homemade.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And what kind of peppers, how do you?

DERYA DOGAN:  It is spicy, but not so spicy, I like using it on my salad, my mom's best friend she made this for me. It's just chili red pepper, but she sundried it at home and it's grinded by herself.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Derya also adds one egg white to the filling to hold it together and she sets the yolk aside for later.

KAYTE YOUNG:  It's time for us to take a quick break, but when we come back, Derya will divide the dough and start filling it with the cheese mixture.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Your kitchen looks very orderly and well stocked like you're used to cooking all the time.

DERYA DOGAN:  I love cooking. Just doing things around the house is like my therapy. Even when I get so anxious, I'm just in my kitchen and I'm doing things.

KAYTE YOUNG:  More from Derya Doğan in her kitchen 'doing things'. Today she's making Poğaça, a stuffed Turkish bread or hand pie. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Earth Eats, this is Kayte Young and we're back with Derya Doğan, she's a graduate student at Indiana University and she's sharing a recipe with us and stories from her childhood growing up in Southeast Turkey. She's making Poğaça, a Turkish hand pie. The dough is prepared, the cheese, herbs and spices are combined for the filling and now she's ready to assemble the Poğaça.

DERYA DOGAN:  Something that I always end up doing when I make Poğaça is I just put too much filling in it, so anytime it's baked, the cheese just comes out, [LAUGHS] I'm like no, I want the perfect shape!

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so you've taken the dough now and you're looks like kneading it again and you're kinda rolling it out?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. Because I'm gonna have small buns. And, so the wholewheat, when I make things with wholewheat it's not always as soft as regular flour, but I really, really wanna learn how to make pastry like soft--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Uh-huh--

DERYA DOGAN:  Pastry by using wholewheat because I also like the taste better. I did have long nails and were polished just until yesterday morning when I was, I'm gonna knead some dough, so--


DERYA DOGAN:  I had to clean all of that and I could have worn gloves, but I really believe that when your hand touches it and I have recently read an article about it. Like in Turkey, we say some people just like their hands have that flavor and I think there's a similar thing here too, like a conception, so there was a whole article about it and they were saying [LAUGHS] it's true, but it's actually bacteria some people have in their hands. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  I have heard that, something about that too--


KAYTE YOUNG:  When they're making--

DERYA DOGAN:  So-- I guess my hands are full of bacteria [LAUGHS] that make food delicious.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I've got a link in the show notes at to a 2018 article from MPR about sourdough starter, bread dough, bacteria and baker's hands. Check it out, it's fascinating.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so you've just flattened it down into a disc, but it's not super thinly rolled out or anything?

DERYA DOGAN:  No, no--

KAYTE YOUNG:  It's thick, it's kind of I don't know, quarter inch thick or more? Okay and then--

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. So, I'm gonna--


DERYA DOGAN:  I'm gonna have small buns--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh okay!

DERYA DOGAN:  That's what I like, that's my favorite shape.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay. Okay. You just fold it over, seal it in there, seal the filling in there and then just roll it again?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yep.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay that's interesting.

DERYA DOGAN:  I'm trying to have like a flat, smooth surface on that side, but it's as you can tell-- [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  Like do you wanna have sort of that tension that you're, that you have when you make buns sometimes?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. My sister is, she's good at making the perfect bun. She has bigger hands though! I don't. I sometimes make it with mozzarella cheese, but like the balls you can buy at the store, so you just put like one inside and it melts so well, I'm like--

KAYTE YOUNG:  In addition to the round bun shape, Derya's also making hand pies in a half moon shape.

DERYA DOGAN:  This is one of the most commons shapes when you make Poğaça.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh okay, so see that's what I think of when you say hand pie, I think of that shape.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh yeah--

DERYA DOGAN:  But this goes better with-- when you don't have it, when you don't make with yeast because when this rise, this kind of--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Opens up?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, like opens up or this pointy part of the edge kinda disappears and at bakeries in Turkey they have different versions of this, this is like the very homemade version of it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay. And how are they different?

DERYA DOGAN:  They are bigger, they have more butter in them.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, looks to me like when you make them in the half moon shape that it allows for a lot more filling?

DERYA DOGAN:  Filling yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah every time I make something like this it's, like I always have leftover filling [LAUGHS] and you think oh I'll use it for something and you never do.

DERYA DOGAN:  Although with this cheese I can simply make omelet the next morning--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh yeah, yeah.

DERYA DOGAN:  [CLEARS THROAT] So, although the correct spelling and the pronunciation of this is Poğaça with the P as the first letter. In colloquial language we just Bogaca. It's kinda funny because I'm Arabic [LAUGHS] we don't have P in our language, so--

DERYA DOGAN:  'Cause that's always the joke between me and some of my native speakers of Arabic friends. That with P and B, we joke about that. [LAUGHS] Or in Turkish language we soften some of the letters, like the sounds and like my last name has a the soft G at the end, in it, sorry not at the end, in the very middle, so coming from Arabic, it should have been like the 'rrr' sound, but now in Turkey we say it's 'e' 'l' which is the impossible to pronounce letter for non-Turks. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  The hand pies have now all been filled and shaped and Derya recommends letting them rest for another 15 minutes to get that final rise. Then it's time to brush the tops with the egg yolk reserved earlier.

DERYA DOGAN:  I have some grape molasses--


DERYA DOGAN:  Just... a tiny bit of it. Literally like a drop. If you add in the egg yolk it just gives it a darker color, it helps with the baking process, just looks nicer.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh cool.

DERYA DOGAN:  And also--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Like a little caramelizing?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. And just nice flavor. If you have some cherry jam, you could use that too. I like it. I'm gonna add--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Can I take a photo of your spice drawer, it's amazing! [LAUGHS] It just kinda tells the whole story. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  In Derya's small apartment kitchen, she has a large deep drawer that is dedicated completely to spices. It is a wonder to behold. She was trying to decide between poppy seeds and sesame seeds for the topping.

DERYA DOGAN:  We could do both or we could do-- let's do both.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Do you ever use Nigella?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yeah. Isn't it very similar to black sesame also?

KAYTE YOUNG:  It really looks the same.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Like it has that striking black--


KAYTE YOUNG:  Small seed, but I do think it tastes a little bit different. I just ask because we grow it in our yard, it's a really pretty flower, but the seeds that we grow don't seem to have much flavor, but when I buy them they're really strong.

DERYA DOGAN:  I see. My brother's an agricultural engineer, so when he was in college, one of the first crops or products that he brought home was, it was sesame, but, like in the-- I have no idea how to call it, it's in this really dry like flour and you have to-- and it's small and you have to break the top of it, they're like tiny rooms and they're the sesame.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's kinda the way the Nigella is too.


KAYTE YOUNG:  It's in like a dry pod--

DERYA DOGAN:  And then with a bunch of chambers inside it, but it's so small.


DERYA DOGAN:  And then when he brought us a bunch of it, he was like here you go, your sesame and my sister and I, I remember took us such a long time to get the sesame out of those little-- I have no idea what to call them, like flower plants?

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, you couldn't just kinda shake them out, you had to kinda dig them out?


KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh okay.

DERYA DOGAN:  And then we were so this is how people get sesame out of the plants, this is lots of work. Anytime I use sesame I just remember that moment. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  After brushing the tops of all the hand pies with the egg wash, she sprinkled the seeds on top and put them in pre-heated oven. They should bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

DERYA DOGAN:  I told you I add some spices to it right? Because it's the same type of spices we use to make çörek for Eid in Turkey, in my hometown specifically and it's so nostalgic to me because especially when I was a kid, anytime my mom made it, of course she will make this giant amount dough and then I would help her with the dough. She would kneed it in this giant whatever you call it, [LAUGHS] the big thing that we have at home. She would just make it inside it and just wait for it to rise and... my dad would go and talk to the local bakery, so when can we bring it because it's too much, we cannot bake it at home.

DERYA DOGAN:  And the thing is because everybody makes it, now the time has changed, but as I was growing up in Southeast Turkey, everybody would make that, so you go literally reserve your spot at the bakery, especially during Ramadan that was when the rush was because people will just have their Iftar, nobody would make their çörek and nobody would even wanna bring it until after they had their dinner which is evening time, right?

KAYTE YOUNG:  Keep in mind that when observing Ramadan, people are fasting from sun up to sun down and having their evening meal called an 'Iftar' after the sun sets.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, they would just tell me, okay you bring yours at 6pm, you bring yours at 7pm and they all work extra hours, they would work at this extra hours and I would go with my dad, actually a lot of the time people will bring their sons with them, well, I was the youngest one and my dad never had such things, so he even took me to local coffee house when I was a kid and I actually went inside and sit with him with all those older men, so I had those wonderful memories with my dad, so he never had that thing that, oh you're a girl, you cannot, no, so I would actually be with him and, so, yeah and my mom was also like no, she was the same, so they never had that perception, so I would go with dad and I would be assisting him. So, I would go and sit at the bakery, it's just so hot inside, everybody-- so crowded, some people-- actually all the people, you wouldn't need to bring a younger person with you because you have to carry all of it back home, right?


DERYA DOGAN:  So, yeah my mom, my dad will say, okay, two days before Eid, or the day before night, that's when they told us we could brings ours at 6pm, it has to be ready at 6pm, so my mom and I would just prepare the dough and then it would rise, we'll have dinner and then she would make those little breads with them and she'll just decorate them.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Like the sort of half moon ones or buns?

DERYA DOGAN:  Mostly round ones. And you had to make sure that you use a very unique type of decoration on them because you don't want your çörek to be mixed with other peoples because it's tons of people taking their çörek to the bakery at the same time. And, so people would make shapes with spoons, that's like the most common one, so my mom would never use the spoon, she was like, no that's what everybody makes, I don't want my çörek better than theirs, [LAUGHS] I don't want mine to be mixed with them.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, she would buy those little flower patterns or she had star patterns, so ours was always different.


DERYA DOGAN:  I actually didn't like the star patterns, they were just two big giant stars on the çörek and I remember anytime my mom used that and I was like the thing looks so embarrassing. [LAUGHS] Giant stars on bread.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay she would cut out a star from the dough and then put it on?

DERYA DOGAN:  So, she would have those little tools which had the pattern on them, so you would just press them on the little bread--


DERYA DOGAN:  To get that shape.


DERYA DOGAN:  And you had to do it very hard because it keeps rising, they're gonna bake it, so you wouldn't want the shape or the pattern to be lost in the baking process.


DERYA DOGAN:  And then we had those giant trays, so you would put the first batch at the bottom and then you would put a small blanket right. Then on top of it another because you wouldn't want the dough, the pieces of çörek to stick on top of each other.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Mm. Mm-hmm.

DERYA DOGAN:  And as they wait, you put them on the tray and they wait, so they keep rising, right?


DERYA DOGAN:  So, you had to make sure there's enough distance between them and then you would just grab like a big blanket, right or an old sheet that you would use to sleep, but you're not, you just don't use it to sleep anymore, it should be washed and it's clean, so now that's for baking.


DERYA DOGAN:  So, you would just use part of it for the first batch to cover the first batch and that's why you wouldn't put the egg wash and the sesame on top of it because the cloth-


DERYA DOGAN:  Would ruin it. And then you would put another batch of çörek and then fold the sheet on top of it, so it's layer after layer and then my dad would have to carry it, oh my god, we lost him last April, so I miss all those memories with him so much. And, he would just carry all of them and I would be with him in case he needs my help, just sometimes, just put my hand under the tray as I'm carrying it, but that was like the support when he carried it. And sometimes it was late and dark, so imagine walking through those homes in the dark, but we were just like-- I just felt so happy.


DERYA DOGAN:  And I was with my dad, you know, with my baba, so and we would go to the, the-- and, oh and then once it's all ready and she would put let's say three, four eggs on top of it with some sesame. When my dad and I would take all the raw çörek's to the bakery, then they will just put it in line because again as I said, there are so many people, so many people working at the same time and one time I think whatever was wrong they had to redo all the çörek's for hours. And they gave their own pattern, so and then they told my dad and I don't know what went wrong with the dough, I guess something was wrong and they were, like we have to redo this. I think it was too sticky or something. So, then my mom's not very happy about it, but it was what it was.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, go back to once you get to the bakery, then what happens?

DERYA DOGAN:  So, they would just-- there are a lot of people there, right? So, they take your tray, put it in line, so you just wait. You sit there and you wait. You watch those bakers working so fast, it's so hot, even in the winter time, so hot inside there, so many people. You see other kids, I will look at them, but I will always sit next to my baba. And, yeah, my baba would chat with other people, sometimes they will order some tea, since I was a kid, I didn't need the tea, so my baba would get some tea, but--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, so I don't understand how-- so you have all these layers of--


KAYTE YOUNG:  The breads on top of each other, so when you go to bake it, do you spread it out on different pans?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, so when they--

KAYTE YOUNG:  And then do you do the decoration on top or?

DERYA DOGAN:  So, the creation is already--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Or the eggs and the--

DERYA DOGAN:  So, what they would do, they would just remove all the breads and put it on their big giant table--


DERYA DOGAN:  Which was in front of their oven I guess and a stone oven was always better than electric one, right?


DERYA DOGAN:  So, and then they would add your egg wash and sesame and then they would bake it and then when it's ready, you just paid them a little fee because they baked it for you, so it was always a very tiny fee. And that really was a community thing to do.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah I was just gonna say that, it really sounds like a community event.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. And then the best part is, once you're home, it doesn't matter if it's 8pm or 9pm or 10pm, you have fresh, literally fresh out of oven çörek. Immediately you will make some tea, that's what we would do, even though during Ramadan imagine we have dinner at 7, 8pm and then my baba would take all the çörek to the bakery to have it baked and he's back home at 10pm, it doesn't matter, fresh tea, hot tea, feta cheese, [LAUGHS] olives, like breakfast.


DERYA DOGAN:  That's your night breakfast the day before Eid immediately because the çörek is so hot, so fresh, yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Wow, that's nice.

DERYA DOGAN:  I miss those times, so if I have my family I'm gonna continue all of those traditions. I have to.


DERYA DOGAN:  Because those were some really good memories from my childhood that they still mean a lot to me.



KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah and I think it's that there's something really special about that and I've never experienced that kind of community oven, that community baking experience, it just sounds really beautiful.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yeah. So, I think that's the reason why, even when I make Poğaça and technically we don't put fennel, mahlab in Poğaça, I still do. Because I have that connection. And then when I do it then people ask me, oh my god what did you put in it? [LAUGHS] It tastes so good, there's a flavor in it. Like yeah there is.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, you're saying that the spices that you put in the Poğaça are--

DERYA DOGAN:  They're unique to çörek.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Just to clarify, çörek is the pastry that Derya had just described taking with her father to the communal baking session the night before Eid. It's not what she's making with us today. That is Poğaça which is a filled bread or hand pie. Derya adds çörek spices to her Poğaça because it is such a nostalgic flavor for her. Çörek is a spiced yeast bread shaped into rolls with different kinds of decoration. She pulled up some photos for me on her phone.

DERYA DOGAN:  Let me just--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, so sometimes they're round, sometimes they're rectangles?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yep. You can be-- it's up to you.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I see and so that scoring--

DERYA DOGAN:  You have the freedom to be creative--

KAYTE YOUNG:  On the top is what you were talking about, the decoration?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, so this-- yeah. So this one I can tell from the picture, this one has lots of butter. And sometimes some people make it sweeter, that's how they like it, so my hometown Diyarbakır, Mardin is one hour south of my hometown. Their çörek is always sweeter. [LAUGHS] This is still sold like this at bakeries in Turkey. In Southeast, where I'm from in Diyarbakır at least.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, it's a dough that's similar, but you said it's spiced?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yes and it's-- see, okay, I like this picture, you see the inside it's more tense?




DERYA DOGAN:  So, now during Eid stores are open, bakeries are open, so people can easily get their breads on-- not many people make çörek, but and my mom she's just too old to make it right now.

KAYTE YOUNG:  But it's something that you just wouldn't celebrate Eid without having it?

DERYA DOGAN:  Literally like Bayram, that's what we say-- that's how we say Eid in Turkish, Bayram, so Bayram means çörek, so that's what it was for me. And baklava. [LAUGHS] Sweets and candy! So, the traditional Trick and Treat during Halloween, we do the same thing during Eid in Turkey. Yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh interesting.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah it's exactly the same thing, but we don't say Trick and Treat, but say Happy Eid, you knock on your neighbor's door, you say Happy Eid and they give you candy.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And I can really picture it, it just sounds beautiful. [LAUGHS]

DERYA DOGAN:  Like you would smell çörek, especially when I was a kid, you will smell it out on the street 'cause people would be making it, bakeries were baking it, it's just, yeah--

KAYTE YOUNG:  And, so you'd--

DERYA DOGAN:  It's a kind of lost tradition and as I'm telling you, we had it even when I was a kid, so up until 20 years ago we still had it. It's just the last 20 years, especially the last decade.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, the reason that you took it to the bakery is because you were making so much it wouldn't fit in your oven?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yes it's so much and also... stone oven always, you know, when things are baked in a stone oven it's always better!

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, yeah.


KAYTE YOUNG:  I'm talking with Derya Doğan about some of her favorite Turkish breads from her childhood. We're in her kitchen waiting for Poğaça or savory hand pies to finish baking. It's time to take a quick break. When we return, Derya will tell us about some other bread traditions across Turkey, including a mysterious type of flour that you apparently can't find anymore. Plus we'll get a chance to taste the Poğaça while it's fresh from oven. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Kayte Young here, this is Earth Eats and I'm in the kitchen with Derya Doğan. She's a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University, but she's originally from Turkey, Southeast Turkey in fact and that's an important distinction when you're talking about food, bread in particular. Here's Derya.

DERYA DOGAN:  But in Turkey, even bread in Turkey it changes across the country. Every region, even every city, almost every city within the same region has their own type of bread. So, during Ramadan we have Ramadan pita bread, so in my hometown we actually have that bread the whole year. But in other cities it's only for Ramadan, but we have it the whole year. And then when you go to Mardin which is one hour south, they have a whole different-- it's just one hour south, right? They have different types of bread, actually Mardin their bread is similar to ours, but when you go to Urfa, their bread is different.

DERYA DOGAN:  When you go to Gaziantep that's further than Urfa, it's a whole different bread. So many ekmek, ekmek is a word for bread, that's across the country, everybody has that. And as I said, everybody has Ramadan pita too, but not the whole year and also Ramadan pita or Ramadan pidesi, it changes from one city to other.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Can you describe what Ramadan pita is?

DERYA DOGAN:  I'm gonna find a picture. [LAUGHS]


KAYTE YOUNG:  I brought up the type of pita I'm familiar with from a Turkish restaurant here in town. It's a boat shaped bread filled with cheeses, meats or vegetable mixture on top. Derya corrected me.

DERYA DOGAN:  When I say Ramadan pita, it doesn't have any filling on top of it. And ours is more like an oval shape--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Like an oblong yeah.


KAYTE YOUNG:  The Ramadan pita almost reminds me in appearance of a round or oval shaped focaccia, that's about how thick it is and there's a lattace or a grid pattern scored on the top of the bread.

DERYA DOGAN:  And then you go to Northeast Turkey, they have their own bread, there's Trabzon bread, I love also. It's this huge round bread, I love that too and they make-- they also use lots of cornmeal, corn flour in it. Oh, speaking of bread, so as I told you, my best friend and I grew up together, but we don't remember when we met. They are originally from Mardin and my dad was also born in Mardin, but he didn't have any connections left, the whole family immigrated to my hometown. My best friend's mom she would make some bread at home, the dough and everything and then when you make hot bread at home in Turkey, you just prepare the whole dough. When it's risen, then you take it to the bakery, you could also do that and then they give it the shape and they bake it for you.


DERYA DOGAN:  So, her mom would make that and I always loved her mom's bread, especially that her mom would bring type of a flour which I think we call it the yellow flour from her village. The bread she made with that flour, my whole life, I have had tons of different good breads, but nothing still can top the bread that her mom made when we were kids with that yellow flour.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I wonder--

DERYA DOGAN:  At least I can, I can never find anywhere, it's just-- yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I wonder if it was semolina?

DERYA DOGAN:  No, it was a grain like wheat flour. But the way it was processed, it had this darker yellow-ish color. The funny thing is that a couple weeks ago, I was having chat with someone also from Turkey, but he's from-- I'm from the Eastern part of Turkey, he's from the Western part and he was telling me how he was a kid, his mom, they used to have that yellow flour and then his mom would make that bread and he was, like I can never forget the taste. I was like, oh my god!

KAYTE YOUNG:  I know--

DERYA DOGAN:  I know. Is that the same yellow flour we are talking about?

KAYTE YOUNG:  It must be. If it's stuck in your minds--

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  In your memory that strong--

DERYA DOGAN:  But it's so funny how we are from across the country from each other and still like the same type of flour and yeah even now when I talk to my friend's mom, like I tell her that bread and she can still make bread and if I go back home, she would make it if I say I just want it, she'll just make it. And because when I grew up, she was always there, I can tell her, I want that bread, can you make it for me, I feel comfortable around her. The problem is that they don't have that flour, they don't make that flour anymore. I think it was a whole different process. So, even when they made it, it was always more expensive, it was not as plenty as the other type of flour.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Mm. What was that rare and delicious yellow flour? I guess it will have to remain a mystery. Ah well, never mind, the hand pies are about to come out of the oven and Derya is making tea.

DERYA DOGAN:  Because it's the best to eat with black tea. And I also add some cardamom when I make black tea.


DERYA DOGAN:  Something we don't do in Turkey. I actually learned it from my other Middle Eastern friends.


DERYA DOGAN:  Cardamom in the tea and I love it. I really liked it.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah in Turkey if we make tea, we drink it with-- we don't add sugar in as we make it. Because even between me and some of my Middle Eastern friends coming from different countries, we talk about it, how do you make tea? How do you make coffee? These are some nice conversations that we have, so we don't really add cardamom, if we ever add something it's clove.


DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. I'm not a huge, huge fan of it, maybe one clove I could handle, but not too much of it. But I do like the cardamom in it. And we don't make it with sugar added in the tea, just like if you wanna have it it's--


DERYA DOGAN:  You add it [LAUGHS] in your glass. Your cup.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, tell me about this teapot. So, yeah I'm really curious about this teapot, it looks like a really good idea.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, my teapot has its own story, but the concept of teapot has a whole story of its own, so I will tell you about those. When I used to live in Gaziantep, Turkey and there my mom she-- my parents when they-- I moved there, both my parents they were there with me, they helped me settle down, my babameven arranged a-- at the time we didn't-- well, we still don't have even in Turkey, but my baba even arranged the taxi driver. He tried he couple of different, he was like okay this taxi driver he's the one I think I trust the most, I got his card, here's his card, I told him about you. [LAUGHS] So, this is the guy you can ride with if you ever need to take the taxi.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, yeah they did everything as I settled down there and then left. So, they didn't get me this teapot set, they got me an electronic one which is also very good, it was very good. So, I started having 'cause I had my first job, my first full time job there, 'cause my friends were coming to visit and one of them he was, okay you are making tea out of an electronic teapot, I'm not gonna drink it. And he was like I'm a traditional man, I can't do that and the rest of us were like, come on, but in a way when you using a kettle it really doesn't taste the same. And he was, like it has to be like the real tea, but he was like we need to get you a real teapot.

DERYA DOGAN:  But the one I had was a really good one, but on the other hand as I said, he had a point 'cause even when I drink tea coming from a kettle, it doesn't taste the same to me. And then it was my birthday, so I was home and a friend of mine was staying with me and then one of my guy friends he was like hey, what are you doing? There's a couple of us, we are at this café nearby, let's go there. And then my friend, we all worked together and she was like that's weird they didn't ask me, I was like they probably didn't know, shall I tell? And she was like no don't tell them and she was like I have a feeling they're doing something for your birthday. I was like I have that feeling too.

DERYA DOGAN:  And she was like I have work to do, just don't even mention it, go and let's see what happens. I said, okay, so I went there, yes, it was four of my-- we have male co-workers, they had arranged a little birthday thing for me, they got me a cake at this local café and then the birthday cake came and they were singing for me and then next they're were like we got a gift for you and it was this teapot and it's a very expensive brand okay and I'm not saying this to show off, so the four of us came together and we got this for you and they even joked because usually when you stuff like this for a single woman it's, oh when you get married, so they made that joke and laugh it was funny.

DERYA DOGAN:  But the guy who originally complained about my electronic teapot, my kettle, I looked at him, I was, like this was your idea wasn't it? He was like yep. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  He just wasn't having it.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. And then he was like so next time I come to your place, you're gonna use this to make tea for us. I said deal. It has been about 14 years that I have, I'm using, I just cannot throw this away. You see it's getting old, it's not as sturdy as it used to be.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so, but I wanna understand about it, so the bottom part is a tea kettle, so it is metal, it looks like it's enamel and it goes directly on the stove and you heat the water in that. Then on top of it sits the ceramic tea pot and that's where you're making the tea, but then it can sit on top and stay warm, is that the concept?


KAYTE YOUNG:  That is extraordinary and it's exactly what is needed because that's always the problem with a pot of tea is keeping it warm. I have a little thing that you put a candle in, but I think this is nicer having it over the water. Seems better.

DERYA DOGAN:  This is-- oh my goodness, yes. It's done.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, they smell incredible.

DERYA DOGAN:  Maybe I should have taken it out sooner, but--

KAYTE YOUNG:  I think the color looks good.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah and it's just soft. I was just worried that it was gonna be hard again because the last time I made it at home was so hard.

KAYTE YOUNG:  As Derya pulled the Poğaça from the oven and finished making the tea, she told me her second story about the teapot. This one she admits includes some stereotypes about gender and family roles. She started out by explaining that often in traditional Middle Eastern households when the son in the family gets married, he and his wife will live in his parents household.

DERYA DOGAN:  So, there was always conflict between the mother in law and the daughter in law and there's the sister in law, so they say the story is that the bigger part of the teapot, that is the father in law. Heavy man in the family, heavy kind of like metaphorically. He just sits there, he is the core of everything, he brings food because it's the water boiling in it, you have to have the water boiling there, but he's this super heavy serious person. This is, I think this is the mother in law--

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, the smaller--

DERYA DOGAN:  Constantly boiling-- [LAUGHS] So, never fully comfortable. She can get bitter, she can get blight and they say this is the son--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so can you say what the different things are, the--

DERYA DOGAN:  This is the father in law.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And that's the kettle at the bottom.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. This is the mother in law.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And that is the ceramic kettle at the top--

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yeah. And it doesn't always have to be ceramic, it can be metal and all that stuff. So, this-- but each, like how those two are connected, right?

KAYTE YOUNG:  The saucer?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. The husband, the son of the family. Basically, like carrying, accommodating the wife, the teacup. So, this is really a lot of-- there's a lot of stereotype, you might wanna cut this part out. [LAUGHS] You put some brewed tea and the hot water. Something from the mother in law and something from the father in law together and the mind of the daughter in law. This is the sister in law and she's there to stir things up. [LAUGHS]

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's so great.

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah. [LAUGHS] So, I don't know, some old stories, you just laugh at them.

DERYA DOGAN:  The water that I just added in the bigger pot, it's boiling again. The tea in the ceramic in the smaller teapot is brewing itself. Do you add sugar in your tea?

KAYTE YOUNG:  No. I don't think so.

DERYA DOGAN:  When you use glass ones, it's just always better to keep this metal teaspoon. Teaspoons that we have in Turkey, they're exactly the same shape, but this part is smaller. Like very Americanized. [LAUGHS] Middle Eastern teaspoons. It just helps so that the glass won't break. Yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  What, if you put the spoon in there?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah because the tea's so hot. Otherwise the glass might crack.

KAYTE YOUNG:  How does the metal help it not crack?

DERYA DOGAN:  It just like absorbs the heat.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Interesting.

DERYA DOGAN:  Or another thing people do, if you have so many tea glasses, you just put only tiny bit of boiled hot water in the first one and you keep just like transferring it to the other one, so the teacup gets some steam that way. You're protecting the tea cup from cracking.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah kind of tempering it.


KAYTE YOUNG:  So, look, none of the cheese filling came out.

DERYA DOGAN:  This worked! So, you pick which one you wanna have.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh my! Okay. Ooh it feels really light. Okay, now time to taste it.

DERYA DOGAN:  Is it salty or not?

KAYTE YOUNG:  I'm tasting the salt, but I think it's mostly from the cheese.

DERYA DOGAN:  Okay. Maybe the cheese was salty this time. Sometimes it happens.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I was gonna ask you if you add-- I didn't see you add any salt and I assumed that it was 'cause the cheese.


KAYTE YOUNG:  I like it salty. It's really nice, I love the bread. Yeah, I love this. Are you happy with how the blend of flours came out?


KAYTE YOUNG:  I really like the texture on the top with the egg wash and the seeds, that's really nice. I love the filling. The spice blend is so unusual.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Well thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.

DERYA DOGAN:  In Turkish we say [FOREIGN DIALOGUE] and in Kurdish we [FOREIGN DIALOGUE], the same phrase.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Is it sort of like the French bon appetite or something?

DERYA DOGAN:  Yeah, yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  [FOREIGN DIALOGUE] That was Derya Doğan. She's a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy Studies and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. She is originally from Turkey and she shared how she makes Poğaça or Turkish hand pies, including her own special twist of adding spices that are traditionally used in another Turkish bread called çörek. These spices are so nostalgic for her, they bring up treasured childhood memories of communal baking in her hometown in Southeast Turkey. We have photos of Derya and her Poğaça on our website,

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's it for our show this week. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The Earth Eats team includes Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media. Special thanks this week to Derya Doğan. Earth Eats is produced and edited by me, Kayte Young. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from Universal Production Music. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.

Deyra Dogan standing in front of a blue floral wall hanging holding a glass cup of tea

Derya Doğan says that she loves cooking. Being in her kitchen and doing things around the house is her therapy. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

“Imagine, we have dinner at 7, 8 pm–my baba would take all of the çörek to the bakery and have it baked and he’s back home at 10pm–doesn’t matter! Fresh tea, hot tea, feta cheese, olives, breakfast–that’s like your night breakfast the day before Eid.”

This week on the show, we spend time in the kitchen with Derya Doğan. She is a PhD candidate in Education Policy Studies in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. 

baked pastry with sesame seeds and poppy seeds on top, opened up on a plate with a cheese filling inside
Pogaca is a Turkish dish that can best be described as a filled savory hand pie. Derya's version includes spices that she associates with childhood memories from her hometown in Southeast Turkey. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

Derya walks us through the steps of making her version of Poğaça–a Turkish hand pie filled with cheese and herbs. She shares treasured childhood memories of communal baking in her home town in Southeast Turkey.

Mentioned on the show:

Sourdough Hands: How Bakers And Bread Are A Microbial Match--Lindsay Pattrson, NPR


Music on this Episode:

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.


The Earth Eats’ team includes: Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media.

Earth Eats is produced, engineered and edited by Kayte Young. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.

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