This trip keeps getting better and better. So far Turkish Delight has been my favourite dessert of the last 4 months of food exploration. It was a bit of a struggle to make them, yet I’ll do them again and again. I’m sure the next time I make them it’ll be easier. Next time I won’t have a knife injury on my finger and won’t start making these at midnight! Next time I won’t be a Turkish Delight rookie.
I’ve had Turkish Delight’s before, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t like them. But I guess my dislike wasn’t the dessert’s fault per se, more of an inconvenient coincidence. I was still a kid and in my hometown there’s a small electronic shop we all called “the arabs”. I believe it actually has a very generic name such as: “TVs and more” or “House Electronics”. But since arab immigrants shine like a diamond on a bed of charcoal on a small puerto town, nobody will know what are you talking about if you call the store by any other name but “the arabs”.
The owners are very much loved in town. You go there and business never starts without them giving you first a cup of strong black coffee. They still sell things on credit! That’s something you don’t see often nowadays, and they do it with a big smile. Sometimes they even give you sweet treats to go and once, they gave us a little box of Turkish Delight.
Here’s where things went wrong. I’m not blaming this on the nice electronic shop owners, since I know the box was properly sealed and looked new. My first bite on this nice and chewy treat covered in powdered sugar revealed it’s beautiful pink see-through interior. The site revealed more than a nice sweet… there was something else. I suddenly felt as if I was biting on a soft version of the Jurassic Park inventor’s walking stick. Like an amber stone, my Turkish Delight was preserving inside a beautiful specimen of a huge (and nasty) fly.
As you can imagine, my mind obviously turned the memory of the Turkish Delight taste into something absolutely disgusting. Even when I’ve come across them on my travels and restaurant visits, never have I dared to try them again, not once. But as I researched and decided upon Turkey’s menu for the week I was drawn to them. I confess it was probably because of the picture perfect qualities of it that I made my final decision. Although I love anything with rosewater and/or nuts, so it’s the decision was a bit of everything. And I’m oh so glad for that choice.
As I said, it was a bit of a pain in the butt to make them. But that was because of my poor decisions of making these after midnight after a long day of cooking, a photo shoot, recording & editing a video, and writing an article. I was tired and not as focused. It does require some time and constant monitoring, but it is well worth the time and effort. The ingredients are pretty easy to come by too. Turkish Delight is made with sugar and cornstarch and your choice of flavoring.
This delicious treat that has become part of Turkish national identity is to die for. It’s texture is like a much firmer gummy bear, but it’s taste is completely different. I love coming across recipes that shine with versatility, where the same procedure will take you many different ways with very few tweaks. In Turkey the most common flavours for Lokum (their name for Turkish Delights) are rose, pistachio, lemon, mint and mastic. Another favourite and one that I’m dying to try is one filled with nuts and the dusted with dried coconut shavings. (Insert operatic high notes here!)
I decided to make a mixture of two classics, Rosewater and Pistachios. If any of my friends read this article soon, please come rescue me. Take them out of my hands! I usually end up handing the blog’s food around among friends, neighbors and family. But after I made this tray I’ve been in locked down. I’m concerned for my health and mental sanity. I’m treating these Turkish Delight as Golum did the ring, “My precious!” For the sake of my pancreas, help! … Somebody, anybody?
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 3 tsps rose water
- 1 cup unsalted shelled roasted pistachios
- 2-3 drops red food colouring (optional)
- about 3 tbsp confectioner's sugar for cutting board
- 1/4 cornstarch
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- butter for knife and tray
- Prepare a baking dish or rimmed sheet pan by brushing with plenty of butter. I used a small 10 x 6 inch baking dish.
- Place all syrup ingredients in a medium sized pan and mix well. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, then bring it down to a medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, on a separate saucepan prepare the thickener. Mix the confectioner's sugar, cream of tartar and cornstarch with a whisk. Add the water slowly while whisking to prevent any lumps. Check the candy thermometer on the syrup, once it reaches the firm ball stage (250°F) place the thickener over medium heat. Whisk away until it thickens, then bring it to a boil and keep whisking for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the mixture warm until ready to use.
- Exactly at the moment when the syrup reaches hard ball stage (260°F), turn off the heat and carefully incorporate the thickener with a whisk. When the mixture looks well incorporated return to the stove over medium-low heat.
- Now comes the fun part. Do NOT turn your back on this now. With a heat resistant spatula keep separating the Turkish Delight from the bottom of the pan to prevent from burning. Do this for about 30 minutes until the mixture gets very very thick and light amber in color. At this point add your pistachios, rose water and food coloring (if using). Mix well, turn the heat off and smear the mixture on the prepared dish. Let the Turkish Delight rest for 6 hours or overnight at room temperature overnight.
- In a bowl sift together the dusting ingredients. Dust a cutting board with the 3 tbsp of confectioner's sugar. Carefully run a knife through the sides of the dish to separate the Turkish Delight and turn the candy down on top of the cutting board. Have a stick of butter ready to keep smearing on your knife so it doesn't stick on the candy. Cut into cubes and place on the prepared dusting bowl. Sift the Turkish Delight cubes to remove any excess dusting. Store in an airtight container, they'll keep perfectly for about 3 weeks, although I doubt these addictive treats lasts that long. Enjoy!
- Pistachio Tip: Where I live is virtually impossible to find unsalted pistachios. I bought SALTED shelled pistachios. To desalt them simply put them on a strainer and wash them with cold tap water for 1 or 2 minutes while working them with your hands. Shake the strainer a little to remove any excess water and place the pistachios on a baking sheet. Bake them on a preheated oven at 350°F for 6-8 minutes until they feel dry to the touch and sound crunchy. These extra roasting gives them a kick of powerful nutty flavor that really enhances the Turkish Delight flavor profile.