I have always been a big fan of Turkish Delight, specifically the kind that used to be sold in deep pinkish-red boxes in our stores when I was younger. You’d also get them in clear papers in the traditional “Pick n Mix” at the retail stores. Most people tended to avoid them in favour of the foil-covered chocolates, but I chose one white and one pink Turkish Delight every time.
Homemade Turkish Delight I’ve bought at fairs and home industries has never had the same appeal, mostly because of too much rose water and a too hard and rubbery sweet. I always told myself that if I ever made it, it would be just like in the stores. I started thinking about making it again recently when one of my best girl friends treated me to dinner at a Turkish restaurant, complete with fire-twirling belly dancers, cushions for seats and, of course, delectable Turkish Delight pieces with dessert.
My research confirmed that gelatin in true Turkish Delight is a no-no (no animal by-products should be used), which made me happy. Not for the reason you might expect, simply because I’ve never been a fan of gelatin-based baking or confectionary. Plus – and this was key – I don’t have any.
Detailed research also revealed that the true version (called Lokum) takes two pots, two separate mixtures to boil, heat and stir, and 2 -4 hours from start to finish, excluding the setting time! The process of bringing it all together is also quite technical in nature and, once done, requires constant stirring for at least an hour after the first couple of hours to boil everything and get the mixtures to the right temperatures. I began having doubts as to whether I really felt like all that effort, and then I found a Turkish Delight recipe that included those three little words that every girl (okay, maybe just me) loves to hear:
“The Easy Way”
Yep, this recipe spoke to me. On a very deep and meaningful level.
It seemed simple, used one pot, appeared to have less stirring time and didn’t mention a 12 hour setting period. Okay, I’ll be honest, there were quite a few things it didn’t mention, which made the exercise a true experiment in time, temperature and even size. But, using bits and pieces from other more complicated recipes, my nougat-making experiences to date, and the comments from people who’ve tried this and other recipes on various websites, I believe the experiment was pretty successful.
From assembling the ingredients and tools to pouring the mixture into the tin took just 45 minutes.
(The original recipe is on eHow.com)
My version of Turkish Delight The Easy Way
First of all, I only made a half mixture. For two reasons: One, I didn’t want to risk tossing 4 cups of sugar’s worth of experiment in the dirtbin if it went wrong (so many home Turkish Delight makers seemed to have failed along the way) and Two, the tin I use for full batches of sweets is currently home to the most divine leftover Malva Pudding from Easter Sunday. If ever there is a good reason not to have the tin available, that is it. This half mixture made 36 pieces.
So, this is what you need:
2 cups white sugar
2 ¼ cups water (I used water from the kettle. I almost always do, it’s just a habit)
5/8 cups of cornflour (cornstarch, Maizena) (This is half a cup plus one-eigth of a cup – mum happens to have a 1/8 cup measure, so I added 5 of those)
1 ¼ teaspoons lemon juice (The ¼ was a guestimate – I didn’t think a smidge more or less would make too much difference)
1 teaspoon of rose water (Accurately halving the recipe would have meant 1½ teaspoons, but I’m still wary of too much of this stuff)
Food colouring (optional)
For dusting after setting:
1/3 cup icing sugar (Also called powdered sugar/ confectioners sugar)
¼ cup cornstarch
20x10cm loaf tin
Cling Wrap/ Saran Wrap/ Plastic Wrap
Medium pot with lid
Knife (for smoothing the mixture in the tin)
Board for cutting on
Sharp knife for cutting into squares
Airtight container for storage
Wax paper for storage
Line the tin with the plastic wrap, and then spray the wrap-lining with with non-stick spray. (I did this based on the many people who claim to have tossed the set mixture – tin and all into the bin – because it stuck to everything, and would not budge. A few experienced bakers responded by suggesting buttering plastic. I don’t generally use butter in this way, so sprayed instead.)
- Place the sugar, cornstarch and water in the pot. (At the beginning it looks like milky water – most uninteresting)
- Dissolve the sugar and cornstarch in water on the stove on medium heat – number 3 – stirring constantly. (I used a whisk at the start, always better for mixing any type of flour and water. However, the sound of the whisk on the pot is like nails on a chalkboard to me so it didn’t take me long to switch to a wooden spoon as soon as most of the cornflour was dissolved)
- As soon as the sugar and cornflour have dissolved, add the cream of tartar and stir in.
- Turn the stove plate down to number 2, and place the candy thermometer in the pot. (Keep stirring, and be sure to stir to the bottom of the pot, rubbing the spoon across the bottom to dislodge any settling sugar.)
- As you stir and the mixture heats, you’ll see clear lumps forming in the milkiness – like a hot jelly (speaking of which – this is a good time to remind you that this is a sugar syrup and therefore is HOT. Not warm, but scaldingly, stickily, unbelievably HOT. Do not touch in any way at any time right until the sweets have set in the tin much later.)
- As the temperature rises, more and more of these lumps will form, as more and more of the liquid transforms into the gel that will become Turkish Delight.
- Boil and stir the mixture until the candy thermometer reaches 115C (240F). The original recipe says 220F, but all others say 240F. Those who have tried it to 220F complain that it doesn’t set. My nougat learning that higher temperatures give firmer results also prompted me to boil till 240F (115C).
- Cover the pot for the last 5 minutes of boiling – after about 20 minutes. (It took 25 minutes for my mixture to reach 115C. I then put the lid on, but because you can’t stir with the lid on, it started to scorch. Only a little, but still unwanted. I would suggest putting the lid on at 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the thermometer so that it doesn’t go beyond 115C or 120C, and testing by smell all the time. If you do smell burning sugar, take it off the heat immediately).
- At 25 minutes, remove from heat. It will look like thick glue, off white and not runny. If you move the spoon through it, it will part and slooowly close the gap again.
- Add in the lemon juice and rose water, and any drops of food colouring you might want to. Stir to combine well. At this point I decided to make pink Turkish Delight. In my haste and excitement I poured straight out of the bottle, instead of via the bottle top as I usually do. Thus my “few drops” became “no! no! no! too much!” and my pink Turkish Delight became Very Red Turkish Delight. (Taste is unaffected though, a quick taste of the pot leftovers long after the mixture had cooled was pretty yum).
- Pour into the prepared tin. Smooth the top with a knife if necessary, and leave in a cool spot to cool and set.
Once completely cool and set (firm and cool to the touch) (Mine was ready after 6.5 hours)
- Combine the cornstarch and icing sugar in a small bowl.
- Dust your cutting board or surface lightly with a little of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture.
- Turn your Turkish Delight out onto the dusted board, and remove the plastic wrap (The odd looking “broken” corner is where I cut a nibble off earlier, just to check whether it was firming as hoped and tasted good. It was. And it did.)
- Using a sharp knife, lightly sprayed with non-stick spray, slice the “loaf” and cut into blocks. It’s fairly sweet, so the blocks needn’t be too big.
- Sprinkle some of the cornflour and icing sugar into a plate and roll each square in the mixture, coating all sides. (I just find it easier than dipping into the deeper bowl). Repeat as needed, till all squares are covered. Cover really well, being liberal with the dusting – the sweets tend to absorb the coating after a while. Not sure how to stop this, as none of the sites I’ve looked at have a specific answer. Perhaps more cornflour in the mix, but even that’s not a definite. I would suggest redusting just before serving.
- Store in an airtight container, with a layer of wax paper dusted with cornflour and icing sugar between each layer of Delights. I threw in all the remaining icing cornflour mix (just over a tablespoon was left) so that as we take pieces out to eat we can give them a quick roll in the coating. I’ll add more of the mix as time passes.
The next morning…
As expected, the Delights were sugarless, having “sweated” and absorbed the coating. Further research suggested that the trick is to let the mixture set and stand for 2 days. 2 days! Probably the best way, but certainly not what I intended, and the recipe I used said nothing about this. Then I came across an incredibly useful piece on a fellow kitchen adventurer’s blog, at katharses.org, where she shared her findings on the “sweating issue”. I took her advice, and am happy to report that it worked.
The trick is not to combine the cornflour and icing sugar when dusting. Instead, roll each block in a light coating of just cornstarch. About a ¼ cup should still do, but what I did was shake a little into a bowl at a time, so that I didn’t have any real waste. I just added more as needed. It’s just a light coating, but make sure all sides are coated. Once coated all round, leave to stand for about 30 minutes. The coat will turn a little greyish, forming a very light “crust”. You should notice that no more syrup leaks out, and that the crust is still there, not absorbed into the sweet.
After the 30 minutes, roll the blocks in plenty of icing sugar. (Same quantity technique as the cornflour to avoid waste). Line your container with wax paper and a liberal coating of icing sugar. Place the well-coated blocks in a single layer on the icing sugar. Sprinkle some additional icing sugar on top. (The jury seems to still be out on whether the container should be airtight or not. Some insist yes, and others insist no equally strongly. Apparently an airtight container will cause sweating again as moisture is absorbed. I used a container that seals well, but is not specifically airtight. I also made sure that there is plenty of icing sugar on and around all the blocks, as this seems to be key, and is how Turkish Delights bought years ago were packed in their boxes.)