Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

In our British-Turkish-American household we have the pleasure of celebrating the holidays and special occasions of not one, not two but three very different destinations. Yesterday, the British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, turned 90 {roll on the street parties in June} and tomorrow is National Sovereignty and Children's Day in Turkey.

Commemorating the creation of the Turkish Parliament and celebrating the role of children in Turkey's development, April 23rd is a highly regarded holiday where the running of the country is entrusted to the Turkish youth to emphasize the belief that children are the future of the Turkish Republic.

It is with tomorrow's Turkish holiday in mind I am sharing this recipe for Turkish Delight, which actually reminds me of my own youth.

Image courtesy of Jodi & Kurt Photography

As children, my sister and I loved books. Before we were able to read for ourselves, Mom would read aloud a chapter or two from one of our favorite tales before bed time. The first storybook that we both remember pleading to hear time and time again was "Shadow the Sheep-Dog" by the famed British author, Enid Blyton. We would snuggle beneath the down duvet after running "up the dancers" in anticipation of the next chapter {for those that don't know, "up the dancers" is a British colloquialism for stairs}.

As soon as we were able to read for ourselves, we both devoured storybook after storybook, from Enid Blyton's Famous Five and The Faraway Tree to Roald Dahl's BFG and James and the Giant Peach.

Every Saturday morning Mom took us to the library, where we perused the shelves for unread storybooks with eager excitement. We would depart with more books than we could carry and by Saturday afternoon we would both have made a start on reading one of our much loved finds.

All of the classic stories I read as a child were special and memorable. As I write this blog post, my mind wanders to the some of the characters I met along the way and I can't help but smile at the overwhelming nostalgia creeping-up inside of me. I want to spend the rest of the afternoon reading extracts from The Children of the New Forest, reliving The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle and absorbing The Wind in the Willows from cover to cover.

It's extremely difficult for me to choose just one favorite from all of the magical storybooks I read as a child, I do recall, however, that one of my sister's treasured tales was C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I still remember being in awe of the beautiful Narnia collection she was given as a gift, each book had a dramatic jewel-toned cover and the pages themselves were perfectly pristine.

At the time, I was too young to read the Chronicles of Narnia, however, soon after she had read the first installment, the original television series began and for approximately one hour on Sunday evening before dinner, we were totally transfixed. It was while watching this incredible adaptation of Lewis's famed book I first discovered Turkish Delight.

I recall thinking how lovely it sounded after watching the White Witch offer some to the third Pevensie child, and I immediately began to associate the Turkish candy with mystery and enchantment. After eventually reading the book myself a couple of years later, my curiosity grew upon reading Lewis's enticing words; "each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious." The Turkish Delight had both Edmund and I transfixed!

Image courtesy of Jodi & Kurt Photography

Today, I am still captivated by both books and Turkish Delight. I can easily spend an afternoon in the bookstore, although the struggle to walk away empty-handed is real. The battle to eat less than four or five pieces of Turkish Delight is real also, especially this classic homemade rose-flavored variety.

Lovely as a gift or enjoyed with Turkish coffee, this recipe for Turkish Delight or "Lokum" as it's known throughout my husband's motherland, isn't terribly complicated, however, a sugar thermometer is imperative. The result is a soft, floral-flavored sweet that is a million times better than any store bought variety : )

And so it is with wonderful memories of my childhood and my love of storybooks I share this recipe and my own tale of how I discovered Turkish Delight, just in time for Turkey's Children's Day. Afiyet olsun!


Turkish Delight

Prep time: 24 hours
Cook time: 90 mins
Serves: Approximately 50 pieces

Recipe adapted from Rachel Allen's "Home Cooking"

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/4 cups {850g/1Ib 14oz} granulated sugar

  • 10 leaves of beef gelatin

  • 1 cup {120g/4 oz} corn starch or cornflour

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons rosewater

  • A few drops of red food coloring

  • 1/2 cup {65g/2 oz} powdered sugar

Instructions:

  1. Place the granulated sugar and 500ml {18fl oz} cold water into a large, heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

  2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes without stirring, or until a candy thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 125°C/257°F.

  3. In the meantime, cover the gelatin leaves with cold water and allow to soak for 10 minutes.

  4. Once the gelatin leaves have softened, wring out any excess water and place them in another large pan with the cornflour and cream of tartar. Measure out another 500ml {18fl oz} cold water and gradually whisk it into the gelatin mixture to form a smooth paste.

  5. Simmer the gelatin mixture over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Be sure to whisk constantly throughout the cooking time. Remove from heat once thickened.

  6. When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, stir in the fresh lemon juice {be careful here, it will sizzle up a little}. Working quickly and carefully, gradually pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture, whisking constantly.

  7. Place the pan on a low heat and simmer the mixture gently for about 40 minutes until it reaches 110°C/230°F. Stir frequently to prevent to mixture from sticking to the pan.

  8. Grease an 8-inch square or 7x11-inch rectangular pan with the vegetable oil. Your choice of pan will deter what size pieces of Turkish Delight you desire. A 7x11-inch pan yields smaller, bite-size squares.

  9. As soon as the mixture reaches the correct temperature {it should be a deep golden color} add the rosewater and one or two drops of food coloring and stir until well combined. Be sure to add the food coloring carefully, you can always add more to achieve your desired color!

  10. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.

  11. Set aside to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight until firm.

  12. Once firm, spoon the powdered sugar into a fine sieve and dust half of it onto a clean work surface. Turn the Turkish Delight out of the pan and use a lightly oiled knife to cut into squares, cleaning the knife after each cut.

  13. Dust each piece generously with the remaining powdered sugar.

  14. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to four weeks.

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