Turkish Delights are not very popular in North America unless you consider that they are the basis for applets and cot-lets. 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 labelled the packages “Turkish Delights” and that’s how we got the name. They’re wildly popular in most Common Wealth countries.
The original recipe was made with rose water, water and flour (starch). Most of the recipes I’ve researched still include starch (corn starch) as the binding agent. However, while living in Tonga, I used a common plain gelatin, the name of which escapes me and all the search engines, that came in one large envelope, in a box, and included this very simple recipe without starch. The cornstarch listed with the ingredients is added to the powdered sugar for dusting the finished product. Icing sugar, which is made with cornstarch and powdered sugar, is regularly used in Common Wealth countries, but not in the USA. All the recipes I’ve found use food coloring to dye the syrup. Naturally, I’m reluctant to put anymore chemicals into my system than necessary so I’ve substituted cranberry juice in place of lemon juice. It gives the lokum just enough pink hue so you can recognize the rose water ingredient. You can use cherry juice, grape juice, orange juice, vegetables such as red beet, or roots such as turmeric to dye the syrup. This recipe is successful everytime I make it and makes a lovely hostess gift with some homemade truffles and espresso beans.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp plain gelatin softened in 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tsp rose water
- 1 Tbsp cranberry juice
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 4 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
In a heavy bottom sauce pan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup water. 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. Remove from heat, add juice and rose water. Rinse an 8X8 inch pan with cold water. It’s important to use this size pan to achieve a one-inch thickness. Sprinkle bottom of pan with pistachios and pour in syrup. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and set in refrigerator overnight.
Combine powdered sugar with cornstarch. Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper on work area and dust with half the sugar mix. Use a thin spatula or knife dipped in the sugar mix to lift the edges of the candy, invert pan over the sugar dusted paper. Dust the top side and slice into one-inch cubes. Dust your knife with powdered sugar mixture to make slicing easier. Roll cubes in the remaining sugar, coating all sides, before storing. Store between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight tin in the refrigerator or in a cool pantry.