Monday, May 21, 2007

Killer Candy - Anise Turkish Delight

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.

Covered in traditional powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Turkish Delight - Recipe from
[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.


  1. This sounds absolutely delightful.

    I've had a lot of different flavors of Turkish delight over the years, but never anise.

  2. Those photos.

    So white. So lovely - the squares look as though they are lit from within. That sugar is spectacular.

    I have always empathised with Edmund as I too am a sucker for Turkish Delight. The name says it all really.

    Your patience re-paid you well!

  3. How fascinating, and what a perfect entry for the SHF theme this time!

  4. that, dear susan, is a true labour of love.

  5. Ah, Turkish delight! I've only seen it in middle eastern markets and restaurants -- you're brave to make it at home!

  6. Welcome, Cybele, and thanks. This tastes just like those little, elusive gems in a bag of Bassett's Allsorts. Always a favorite with me.
    Lucy - Thank you. I'm especially fond of the iceberg powdered sugar shot.
    Thanks, Kalyn. Anise is a dead ringer for licorice, so those troubled by hypertension needn't worry.
    Bee - And ultimately not "Love's Labour's Lost." : )

  7. Bless your heart, that's really a project! I normally don't love Turkish Delight since I am not a rosewater fan, but anise flavored! Now that I could get addicted to!

  8. Your hints are indispensible in a world full of half completed recipes! I love turkish delight although I am a little squeamish about anise (two bad Absinthe nights). They look beautiful with the nonpareils too!

  9. Susan, you are my hero!
    I have a book full of recipes of food gifts and I was very curious when I saw a recipe for Turkish delight there - I've never had any but have heard so much about it. I was never brave enough to give it a try, though.
    These look absolutely beautiful!

  10. Lydia - The curiosity got my courage up. I'm ready for more candy adventures after we work our way through all this sugar!
    Christine - Turkish Delight comes in all sorts of flavors besides rosewater (pistachio, hazelnut, vanilla...), so you needn't shy away if you ever happen upon it.
    Thanks, Freya. Recipes are such a mixed bag. I know you've had your own problems with them. But what's this about TWO bad absinthe nights? One would have been enough for me. Talk about brave!
    You are so sweet, Patricia. Thanks for the kind words. Most cooks wouldn't try this at home, so somebody had to step up to the plate. ; )

  11. I just can't imagine! White never looked so beautiful! Can't promise to make this but I'll certainly try it if it comes my way.

  12. Thanks, Tanna. It was an experience that I wouldn't necessarily recommend to others, but thought it would be fun to share.

  13. Susan! you are amazing, making your own turkish delight, you go girl! I've never had Turkish Delight but I figured it must be sinfully good for Edmund to betray his siblings, you're right :)

  14. Susan - I cannot believe that you have done this (I was excited enough by the beets and gingerbread muffin posts), for I LOVE anything with notes of anise: fennel, licorice, tarragon, sambuca, is one of my biggest weaknesses, and I cannot belive that I had not heard of anise flavoring before your post. Thanks for the always educational preamble and complete recipe - I trust your method implicitly.

  15. Cynthia - Thanks for cheering me on. Recipes like these are good lessons in perseverance. I don't regret it for a moment, but I will be posting a painless pasta dish next. :)

    Shaun - Licorice is a great weakness of mine, too. Have you ever contemplated the literally HUNDREDS of European varieties? I think the Dutch have the monopoly on it. Thanks for mentioning tarragon. There's nothing like a delicate sprig of fresh French tarragon. I need to arrange a pot in my sunniest window.

  16. That looks incredible Susan!
    So light and fluffy and unique!

  17. Thanks, Jenn. I'd been curious about it for too long not to try it. Now that I'm blogging, the time was right.

  18. I just saw your name over at Lydia's blog and clicked on it. Glad I did! You have lovely photos and delicious recipes. I laughed about the candy making; it's one of those projects that seems like it'll be so fun and easy but typically turns out to be much harder. Beautiful results though.

  19. Welcome, Susan. It wasn't fun at all, but I did have this sense of elated accomplishment once it was over. I'm actually considering making more candy before the humidity completely wrecks my odds. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you came to visit.

  20. You really took a lot of time preparing this one - if I get around to making it, I'll have great instructions.

    The white nonpareils are beautiful on them!

  21. Love, love, love the post behind the recipe. Thank you so much for your contribution to this month's SHF!

  22. Gorgeous! Well worth the effort. I remember eating lookooms in shades of pink and green. I love hte white nonpareilles on yours

  23. Welcome, Sara, and thanks. I figured if anyone was going to brave this, he/she was going to need some extra pointers. Good to have you here.

    Tara - Thanks! It was a great theme, and you did it justice.
    Hello, Helen. Thank you for the compliments. It's a magical candy, isn't it? So nice to have you visit. You are welcome anytime.

  24. Very cool, Susan. Ever since Lion, Witch, and the wardrobe, I've wondered what Turkish Delight was. Now I know. Looks yummy.

  25. Hey, Glenna. Thanks! I expect a lot of Americans didn't know what it was.
    That was a fun flick.

  26. Hey Susan, I remember Jadis spilling a drop of magic fluid on the snow to produce THE BOX, it also inspired me a few years back to attempt an orange-flavoured lokum; I agree it is a tempermental sweet: I had the texture right, but used too large a pan and therefore, thin pieces... quite unlike the photo staring at me from the cookbook. Definitely a trial of patience, but for foodies, recipes of silent attendance are best enjoyed with a new cookbook to browse and a cup of something to sip now and again!

    So, do you think those granulated-sugar-dusted, cut-rate "orange slices" so widely available (in a weak moment I may have devoured a shovelful or two) are actually a poor repro of Turkish Delight?

  27. Hi, Pel. Working with sugar is tricky business. My first attempt was much like yours.

    From what I've read, Turkish Delight was the first, original jelly sweet, as old as the Bible. I do think the "orange slices" are modern knock-offs made with pectin or gelatin rather than the authentic cornstarch. I'm as guilty as anyone of weak moments. I grew up on Twinkies and M&Ms. You never really loose your taste for that stuff.

  28. Dear Susan it's wonderful !
    Hugs for you ...


  29. Dear Susan,
    I just wanna say thank you for this recepie. My blog's name is Turk Lokumu means turkish delight. Nice to know you.
    See you.

  30. Hi Susan
    I would like to thank you for joining the Turkish Night with this wonderful recipe.
    Many thanks! :))

  31. Have you been in Turkey ?

  32. Nalan, welcome! Thank you for your dear message. Very nice to see you.
    Hello, Aybike. I am charmed. Thank you very much for visiting. I will come visit your blog, too. Don't know if it is in English, but I can still enjoy the photos. Photos transcend all language barriers.
    Asye - Delighted to have participated. Thanks for suggesting it!
    No, Anonymous, I have not been to Turkey, but have been fortunately exposed to the cuisines of many cultures. If I had to choose just one sweet for the rest of my life, it would be rose Turkish Delight.

  33. I have tried this recipe before. However my wife does not like anise flavor so I used Chambord Liquor to go for a raspberry flavor. This was my first time attempting it and I think it came out well but I have a couple of questions. That I am hoping someone might help me with.
    A. I am trying to have it come out a bit firmer then it did. Would cooking it longer or adding more cornstarch accomplish that or is there another trick?
    B. Is there some trick to get it so it does not absorb the powdered sugar on the outside so quick and become sticky again?


  34. Hi, Mike -

    A: I would suggest adding perhaps 1/8 - 1/4 cup more cornstarch rather than cooking it longer. Sugar gets "weird" from too much or too little heat. I should add that the leftovers a week later were significantly firmer than a day after I made it. If you can hold out, patience might be the answer. (There are also recipes out there that use gelatin, but I can't vouch for them.) Another factor could be the amount of Chambord you used; a concentrated raspberry extract would likely require less added liquid.

    B: If you let it cool and set overnight uncovered before rolling in the sugar, it will not be so sticky to begin with. I suggest flipping the uncut slab over to let the bottom dry out, too. It's also always better to make candy in the winter when there is low humidity; that impacts the sticky factor, too. Be VERY generous with the sugar, pressing it repeatedly into the jellies, then turning around and doing it again. The dusting needs to be very thick.

    Hope this helps. Regret my reply couldn't be shorter, but there are too many variables.

    Take Care!

  35. Too good !! I loved the pic a lot ! and your blog is tooo good:)

  36. Absolutely INSANE! I love this stuff....cheers to ya!


  37. Love the non-pareils on the Turkish delight and anise is a wonderful flavour for it! Turkish delight has been on my to-do list for ages but the recipe I have (by Claudia Roden) says you have to cook it for about 3 hours! so I've never really dared make it because of it. Maybe I'll try this one instead :)

  38. Mad props to you for doing this. Candy-making is something we haven't attempted yet. I like the use of the non-pariels on the shot. It's a real attention-getter.

  39. Julie de la rivièreMay 21, 2009 at 8:58 AM

    I did it! I did'nt have rose water, so I made a concentrated fruit tea(steeped it in very little water) with caramone and star anise)Thanks for the recipe!

  40. Julie - Cardamom and star anise sound heavenly. SO glad the recipe worked for you; it can be tricky. : )

  41. I'm a bit late to comment...
    Your turkish delight looks delicious, but when I tried making this recipe. The results were a complete disaster. I let it sit out overnight, but it was really liquidy and mushy like hair gel. I added the powdered sugar, but it ended up absorbing all of it. I don't know how I can get a firmer result next time and I'm really not sure what I did wrong.

    One thing I did notice is that it took a while for the sugar syrup to reach the soft ball stage (240 degrees F). The recipe indicates that you bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and that it will take approx 25 minutes (time found in another recipe) to reach 240 degrees, but it seemed to take much longer than that. What really irks me is that I don't understand how I'm supposed to boil it (to the boiling point [212] supposedly) and turn down the heat and expect the temperature to rise. It does the exact opposite and the temperature decreases and I just end up sitting there for an hour. I ended up turning up the heat to medium to get it to reach the soft ball stage.

    It's also possible that the trouble started when I added the sugar syrup to the cornstarch paste as I did it all at once instead of gradually adding it. Could that be the problem?

    After simmering the entire mixture for an hour it never turned into a golden color. I let it simmer for an extra twenty minutes to no avail. I read online about a cold water test, which I tried. I added the finished mixture to a cup of cold water for a minute and tasted it. It was very mushy like hair gel, but it did have small lumps that were firmer than the majority of the mixture, which I'm sure is an indication of something.

    I've tried twice and hope to try again soon and really don't want to give up on this. So, any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  42. Hi, Kristy. I'm very sorry you had problems with this recipe. Candymaking that requires sugar syrup really is a pain. That irksome thing (I know it well) of lowering the temp yet expecting it to rise while simmering is based on the science of applying lower, steady heat over a period of time that eventually builds on itself to rise to the correct temp. You are slowly changing the proportional and chemical elements of sugar and water.

    There are so many factors that can cause failure with candy, that it would be best for you to email me to take what will be an even longer, but necessary, discussion out of comments. You can reach me at thewellseasonedcook AT yahoo DOT com. I do look forward to hearing from you to troubleshoot it. Really. I am actually planning to make TD again for holiday giving, so I will be revisiting this recipe.

  43. Hi! New to your blog, but I just made Turkish Delight yesterday and found that whisking the cornstarch and cream of tartar with a cup of water first (until smooth), then heating the remaining water and adding it (THEN putting everything on the stovetop) helped keep the lumps out. I made rose water and lemon candies, but anise sounds wonderful.

  44. Hi, all ~ I found this blog when I googled "troubleshooting turkish delight." I too used the recipe - which is identical to most other recipes I found, so I'm taking it as standard.

    I made 4 batches this year. Here's my experience:

    ~ They all collected too much moisture after setting up.
    ~ I only got one batch to the softball stage for sure.
    ~ I only got one batch to turn yellow before pouring.

    Yet they all behave the same way, collecting too much moisture later. The batch I did cut up (a term I use loosely - more on this below) and dust has dried out, as I left it unwrapped for this reason. But it is too crusty now; feels exactly that: dried out.

    I live in a very dry climate, but the one day on which I cooked in the house and had it very humid is the day the TDelight was sitting out. It just continued to collect moisture ever since.

    WELL, NOW I see that I used too much corn starch. I used the entire 1 1/4 cups instead of 1 cup. This also gave my candy a lack of coherence; it has a nice, creamy texture, but it is too wet, jiggly, and 'cracks' apart rather than being gummy. Cracks before you can cut it.

    So that is what happens when you use too much corn starch! I just thought I'd share this as there doesn't seem to be a fount of information on what can go wrong with TDelight.

    At first I was hoping that my batches, with their non-yellowness, were just extra-perfect, but I think the mixture does need to turn yellowish before pouring. Also, I got worried about one of my batches as I could see and smell it scorching. It turned out just like the others, but makes me think that the yellow color is just that: the beginning of scorching. Any comments on this?


  45. Hi, R. Bummer. I understand your frustration - so much can go wrong. If TD was more popular here, say, like macarons, then we'd have lots of troubleshooting info available.

    Anyway, per the video on (which I found much later than this recipe), yellowing is a desired result of the sugar reaching the exact temperature. It is critical that you read the candy thermometer correctly; the notches between numerals are sometimes hard to discern. Even though there can be a "correct" incremental range for different sugar stages, depending on overall conditions in your kitchen (heat/cold; dry/humid), you may find a notch or two can make or break the texture.

    As far as the dryness, TD usually has a slight-to-moderate crust on outside that yields to the soft, yet dense interior.

    The video instructor pours the mix into a small, deep vessel, then refrigerates it b/4 cutting into cubes. The texture looks ideal.

    Now I want to try it again, this time with rosewater. If it's successful, I will post a new recipe and chart my experience.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cheers!

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