My very first taste was from a charming round wooden box some years ago. Underneath its chintz-covered top, arranged in a delicate crush of tissue paper, lay a snug and generous cluster of jelly cubes, heavily dusted with powdered sugar, their pink and yellow colors peeking through at the corners. These were no ordinary gumdrops, nor strip of neon colored and flavored bars, but something romantic, mysterious and exotic. These delectable gummy squares were Turkish Delight, and I have been in love every since.
From the Arabic, rahat lokum (“soothing to the throat”) has been around since ancient times. Traditionally perfumed with rose water, lemon or mastic, it holds a special place in many British childhoods as well as Middle Eastern cultures. It is no wonder Edmund Pevensie sacrificed his siblings’ welfare when the White Witch enticed him with it in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Much the same happened to Esau when he sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils in The Bible. I can see that happening. Good stuff has its price.
I had my price to pay, too. Never popular here in the States, Turkish Delight can rarely be found outside of Middle Eastern grocers and bakeries, all of which are inconveniently located (at least for me). The few boxes I did manage to find were afflicted with the same artificial colorings or equally crass flavoring agents of the cut-rate sticky American sweets. This called for taking matters into my own kitchen.
Candy making is not for the faint of heart. Everything goes wrong, particularly if you’ve little experience or only a modicum of patience. Setting sugar to boil turns the same innocuous, beloved sweetener you anoint your cup of tea with into a raging mess that likes to spatter you with second-degree burns. Recalling my many failures, but buoyed by a handful of successes, I studied many recipes. The bulk of them were arduous missions of meticulous coordination, exacting equipment and impeccable timing. I looked for an easy way out, and found it in a streamlined rendition requiring little time and only one saucepan.
It was not to be. Three hours later, I had a plate full of thick, loose taffy that stubbornly refused to set. I excised a piece out of it, only to have the breach filled in without a trace in half a minute. It was alive, but behaving very badly. After much unsavory muttering, I cut my losses and tried again, this time taking the long way home. Turkish Delight, my dear Edmund Pevensie, is not child’s play.
Turkish Delight - Recipe from About.com
[I have made bracketed and bolded notations in the original recipe. Please pay special attention to my additional techniques to ensure your mixture is free of lumps. If you are going to go through the trouble of making this, you do not want it ruined with lumps.]
• 4 cups granulated sugar
• 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 4 1/4 cups water
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater [I used 3 tablespoons anise extract]
• 1 cup confectioners sugar
• Vegetable oil or shortening
In a 9 inch baking pan, grease the sides and bottom with vegetable oil or shortening. Line with wax paper and grease the wax paper.
In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water on medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and set aside. [A digital candy thermometer is easiest.]
Combine cream of tartar, 1 cup corn starch and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all lumps are gone and the mixture begins to boil. Stop stirring when the mixture has a glue like consistency.
Stir in the lemon juice, water and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes. [ I then transferred mixture to a blender to beat out the lumps, then pressed it through a sieve, returning it to CLEANED saucepan. Cornstarch is VERY prone to lumps.] Reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. [Better make yourself comfortable in the kitchen for the duration.]
Once the mixture has become a golden color, stir in rosewater. Pour mixture into wax paper lined pan. Spread evenly and allow to cool overnight.
Once it has cooled overnight, sift together confectioners sugar and remaining cornstarch.
Turn over baking pan containing Turkish Delight onto clean counter or table and cut with oiled knife into one inch pieces.
Coat with confectioners sugar mixture. [ I used nonpareils white candy shot on some cubes.] Serve or store in airtight container in layers separated with wax or parchment paper.
Makes approximately 40 cubes. --
This post is being submitted to Tara of Seven Spoons, host for this month's Sugar High Friday event.
UPDATE: This post is also being submitted to Ayse and Minik of I Love Turkish Food for the Turkish Night event on September 1.