Turkish Delight

Well, I promised you that I would be posting a few recipes from time to time so here goes. First of all, you should know I love cooking, (and eating). I’m also a vegetarian.

For me, cooking is another creative outlet. It’s also a great way to get the juices flowing if I get stuck for an idea. As a composer, I work with sound and the sense of hearing. Cooking channels that creative energy into a different set of senses: taste and smell, specifically. After spending some time playing in the kitchen, I usually find a renewed sense of purpose and clarity when I come back to the paper and the keyboard.

If you are an artist reading this, you may want to give it a try. Of course, if you are going through an extended dry spell, your friends, family, and neighbors may be praying that you get back in the flow again soon, particularly if they are dieting.

I like foods with interesting stories or histories. It’s wonderful to prepare something and share the story of it’s origin. This particular recipe is something I made for my neighbor. He is an older gentleman and his parents were in the Foreign Service, so he spent his childhood all over the world. One of the places he spent a great deal of time was Iran. He had mentioned this candy to me before, so I decided to give it a try.

The candy is called Turkish Delight in English. There are many other names around the world, the most common being “lokum” or some variation of that word. Apparently, this is the origin of the candy we know of as the gumdrop. It appears in literature and film: “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”, an episode of Mickey Mouse, titled appropriately enough, “Turkish Delight”, as well as a number of other movies and books.

There are infinite variations on this candy, as far as what can go into it, and that is where you can get really creative. The base of the recipe is relatively simple. You will find some recipes that use gelatin. As a vegetarian, that is off limits to me. And, this recipe is traditionally not made with any animal products, so it is vegan friendly. To make the base you will need:

4 cups granulated sugar

4.5 cups water, divided use

2 tsp lemon juice

1.25 cups cornstarch

1 tsp cream of tartar

At least 1 cup of powdered sugar combined with 0.5 cups corn starch

You are also going to need either a 9 x 9 or 9 x 13 baking pan lined with parchment.

  1. Prepare the pan

  2. Place the sugar, lemon juice, and 1.5 cups of the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and bring the mixture to a boil. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, and insert a candy thermometer.

  3. Allow it to continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees on the candy thermometer.

  4. Place the remaining 3 cups of water in another, slightly larger, saucepan. Add the cornstarch and cream of tartar and whisk until the starch dissolves and there are no lumps. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring or whisking constantly. The mixture will become thick and pasty.

  5. Once the sugar syrup is at 240 degrees, remove it from the heat. Slowly, carefully, pour it into the cornstarch mixture, whisking until it is fully incorporated. Here is where things can get a bit tricky: it is important to beat the sugar syrup in slowly, so it combines. If you pour the sugar syrup in too fast, you are going to have a liquid that looks curdled, with lumps of starch. If this happens, don’t panic. If you have an immersion blender, (stick blender), you can always use it to get it smooth.

  6. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking it every 8-10 minutes, for about an hour, (yes, about an hour), until the candy has turned a light golden-yellow color and is very thick and gluey.

  7. Now comes the fun part, here’s where the flavorings and stuff go in. A traditional version would have you add 1.5 to 2 tbsp. of rose water and about a half cup of pistachios, (along with a few drops of red food coloring)

Another traditional version would be to add a cup or so of walnuts and no flavoring or coloring

Some other ideas:

  • Chopped dried apple and walnuts

  • Chopped dried apricots with either hazelnuts, pecans or almonds

  • You can flavor it with lemon, mint, clove, or cinnamon oil

  • Coconut is amazing, and so are dates, so get creative

  • You could use any candied or dried fruits really. Just stir it in till well distributed and pour into your prepared pan.

  • Let it sit uncovered for 1-2 days

Now you cut them. This is some really sticky stuff, so use an oiled knife and oil the knife after each cut, then toss the cubes in the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture, or, depending on the flavor, you can chill them and dip them in chocolate, (chilling helps the chocolate to set better).

That’s it, an addictive treat that goes wonderfully with tea or coffee. It also makes a beautiful gift, and is perfect to make or give for Valentines Day.

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