These baked walnut-filled rolls of kadayıf (the hair-thin wheat noodles used in sweets across Turkey and the Levant) are a textural tour de force thanks to the crunchy nuts and the kadayıf, which is crisp in some spots and soft in others. Displayed in almost every pastry shop window in Diyarbakır city, they are rich with butter. I’ve cut back a bit on the sugar syrup for this recipe. The hardest part of making the dish is separating the kadayıf strands and wrapping them around the walnuts to make neat rolls. You’ll get the hang of it after making one or two. And even if your walnut rolls aren’t perfect, they’ll still taste delicious. You can substitute pistachios or skinned hazelnuts for the walnuts. Be sure to make the syrup first so that it has time to cool, and then allow the rolls to stand for a few hours before serving. They keep well for several days at room temperature or refrigerated, though the bottoms will get softer. Serve plain or Diyarbakır-style, with vanilla ice cream.—Robyn Eckhardt, author of Istanbul & Beyond
Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium sauce-pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a rimmed 10-by-15-inch baking sheet.
Put the kadayıf strands in a large deep bowl and gently pull them apart, to the extent possible, with your fingers. Don’t worry if some strands break. Try not to turn the kadayıf into one big noodle nest; keep the strands parallel to each other if you can. Pour over the melted butter and toss with your fingers or two forks to coat the strands. Lay a damp towel over the bowl to keep the kadayıf from drying out.
If you have a kitchen scale, measure out approximately 1 ounce kadayıf; if you don’t, pull a medium handful of strands from the bowl. Shape the kadayıf into a roughly rectangular mat—5 to 6 inches by 7 to 8 inches—on your work surface, with a short side toward you. Try to minimize the space between the kadayıf strands, and gently pat them down to create a somewhat even surface. Arrange about 2 mounded tablespoons of nuts across the rectangle, about one third up from the bottom, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the right and left sides. Working from the bottom, roll the kadayıf up and over the walnuts, pushing in stray noodle strands. Place the roll seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining kadayıf and walnuts, arranging the walnut rolls close together on the pan.
Bake until the tops of the rolls are deep brown, 25 to 30 minutes. When the tops are brown, there may still be pale spots between the sides of the rolls, or underneath. If they look not just pale but uncooked (and are soft when you touch them with a knife or your finger), place a sheet of aluminum foil over the rolls, return them to the oven, and bake for 5 more minutes.
Remove the walnut rolls from the oven and immediately pour or ladle over the syrup. If it threatens to overflow the baking sheet, stop for a minute to let the rolls absorb the syrup, and then pour more over the walnut rolls. Allow to stand, uncovered, for at least 4 hours before serving.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Istanbul & Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017