According to the Bekir Confectioners of Istanbul, Turkish Delights or lokum have been made since the 1500’s but it wasn’t until the 19th century that they made their way to Britain and the rest of Europe. No one seems to know the identity of the man, who transported cases of lokum to England way back then, but he labeled the packages “Turkish Delights” and that’s how we got the name. They’re wildly popular in most Common Wealth countries as well as the Middle East. However, they’re more of a seasonal confection in the USA, appearing as applets and cot-lets during the Christmas holidays.
The original recipe was made with rose water, water, honey and flour (starch). The simple recipe given here uses plain gelatin and produces a quality confection without the addition of starch. The cornstarch listed with the ingredients is added to the powdered sugar for dusting the finished product. Powdered sugar alone is too easily absorbed while icing sugar, which is made of cornstarch with powdered sugar, is not absorbed as readily.
To successfully tint the lokum without using food coloring substitute another tart juice such as cranberry juice for the lemon juice. It gives the lokum a slight tartness and just enough pink hue so you can recognize the rose water ingredient. You can use cherry juice, grape juice, orange juice or a drop of orange blossom water in place of the rose water. Alternately, use a thin slice of red beet or turmeric root to dye the syrup. Nuts, dried fruit, and seeds may be added for more variety and Turkish Delights are also tasty dipped in coating chocolate.
This recipe makes a lovely hostess gift with some homemade truffles, candied orange strips and espresso beans.
o 2 cups water
o 2 cups sugar
o 2 Tbsp plain gelatin softened in 1/4 cup cold water
o 1 tsp rose water
o 1 Tbsp cranberry juice
o 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
o 4 Tbsp powdered sugar
o 2 Tbsp cornstarch
1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat.
2. Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup water.
3. Once the sugar syrup is boiling add the gelatin, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer until syrup has reached the softball stage, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, add juice and rose water.
5. Rinse an 8X8 inch pan with cold water. (It’s important to use this size pan to achieve a one-inch thickness.)
6. Sprinkle the bottom of pan with pistachios and pour in syrup. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and set in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
7. Combine powdered sugar with cornstarch (this is the icing sugar mixture). Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a work area and dust with half the icing sugar mixture.
8. Use a thin spatula or knife dipped in the icing sugar to lift the edges of the candy in the pan. Invert the pan over the icing sugar. The candy should easily come away from the pan. Dust the top side of the candy.
9. Using a thin knife dipped in the icing sugar mixture slice the candy into one-inch cubes. Roll the cubes in the remaining icing sugar, coating all sides, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
10. Re-coat cubes if necessary before storing. Store your Turkish Delights between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight tin in the refrigerator or in a cool pantry.