Depot 62 is a furniture store in Vermont with an outlet for handmade Turkish rugs and, oddly enough, a Turkish restaurant with a wood-fired oven. Before COVID, their main specialty was pizza, with a few Turkish offerings on the side, including köfte kebab, konya kebab and adana tavuk (chicken marinated in yogurt).

Recently, however, owner Alp Basdogan has restaffed the kitchen with Turkish cooks, eliminated the pizza and upped his game in Turkish cuisine, with offerings such as excellent pide and ezme (a spread made with walnuts and pomegranate molasses), vegetable güveç (a stew of eggplant and mushrooms), and for dessert, rice pudding with a maple brûlée topping.

I had considered the rice pudding to be a nod to American cooking rather than a traditional Turkish dish, but during a visit to Istanbul last year, I lunched at Nato Lokantası, a traditional “tradesman’s restaurant,” where the food is prepared ahead of time and served cafeteria-style by waiters who are quick on their feet. Many menu items are familiar, from lentil soup to manti (dumplings in yogurt sauce), but when I saw rice pudding on the menu, I was both delighted and surprised.

Served in a shallow, round earthenware dish, sütlaç—or Turkish rice pudding—has a caramelized top. Often flavored with vanilla or rosewater, this not-too-sweet rice pudding is served cold, and the portions are small. The rice of choice is short-grain—here at Milk Street, we used Arborio. The rice first is cooked with water, then with sweetened milk slightly thickened with cornstarch. Some versions are showered with ground or chopped nuts; we added grated almonds just before serving, though hazelnuts are a common choice as well.

The beauty of Turkish rice pudding is its simplicity and the contrast offered by a brûléed top with a finish of ground nuts. And the portions are just the right size for a hint of sweetness, as opposed to a bottomless bowl of confection that overwhelms.

As for the maple syrup topping offered at Depot 62? It’s up to you, but I sometimes use it to add a hint of contrast that makes this simple, classic dessert at home in New England.