Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkish Delight

My sister and I went to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when it came out in the movies in 2005 (because we love the Narnia books and the BBC series from back in the 80s.) During the scene in which Edmund demands Turkish Delight from the White Witch in return for betraying his siblings my sister (Amanda) turned to me asked,

"What is Turkish Delight, anyway?"
"I have no idea, though it must be good if it turns you against your family."

Then I moved to LA and near my apartment was near Sunland Produce, an awesome Armenian market with shockingly fresh, yet cheap, produce, as well as a variety of other goodies. They also sold Turkish Delight and, giggling at the irony, I bought some to take back to Maryland for a visit. My sisters (Katy and Amanda) and I gorged ourselves on the gummy goodness held within, though we were taken aback by the rose-flavored cubes; they just weren't doing it for us. Then I left California, and eventually the States, where I was forced to focus on other things, such as, "Oh my god, I hope this boda-boda doesn't kill me."

Naturally (is it?) Turkish Delight is included in my bible of Middle Eastern cuisine, so I had to make it. It also happens that yesterday was the one day of the month (my most fertile day, actually) when I crave nothing but sugar and salt, separate or together, with a desire that consumes me to the point that I stand and stare at food, attempting to figure out what exact combination will appease me best. Which means I woke up and thought, "Candy!"; it was on. Of course, being candy it took the entire freakin' day, so I cooked up a batch of sugared nuts to avoid gnawing off my own leg in the hopes the blood would be sweet and absentmindedly parboiled some potatoes, remembering that Seth cannot survive on junk food gorges alone (weirdo). When my Delight was finally set I tossed it in some confectioner's sugar and took a big bite of happiness . . . and then another . . . and another. Seth had absolutely no sympathy when I complained my stomach hurt. Oh well - mounch.

A few notes: While I once disliked rose flavoring I have since accepted it and actually like the taste, especially with Turkish Delight. I divided my batch in have and flavored one with rose water and the other with lemon "flavoring", which might be different than extract because the final result is faint at first but leaves an artificial taste in the back of the mouth. The recipe also calls for nuts but, blech, I think they're gross in the candy. You should set the candy for 12 hours; I sped the process by setting the dishes in my fridge and 5 hours later they seemed fine. However, after tossing in sugar the cubes need to be stored and stacked with parchment or wax paper between each single layer of candies (if that makes sense.) I threw all of mine in a container last night and this morning they had started down the path of gloop. Oh, and maybe be more careful with the food dye than I was.

Turkish Delight (Lokum)
The bible of Middle Eastern cuisine

4cups granulated sugar
4 1/2cups water
1tsp lemon juice
1cup cornflour (corn starch)
1tsp cream of tartar
1-2tbsp rose water (OR 2tsp vanilla OR 2tbsp orange flower water OR 2 tbsp Creme de Menthe OR whatever flavor floats your boat)
food dye (to match your chosen flavor or just to look pretty)
1/2cup chopped, toasted almonds, unblanched (so very optional)
3/4cup confectioner's sugar
additional 1/4cup corn flour

1. Combine sugar, 1 1/2 cups water and lemon juice in a thick-based pan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

2. Bring to the boil and cook to soft ball stage, 240F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

3. In another thick-based pan blend cornflour, cream of tartar and 1 cup cold water until smooth. Boil remaining 2 cups water and stir into cornflour mixture, then place over hear. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and bubbles. Use a whisk if lumps form.

4. Pour the hot syrup gradually into cornflour mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil and cook gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and cook until mixture is a pale golden color. Stirring is essential. (Mine looked golden as soon as I added the syrup, but don't skimp on the cooking time.)

5. Stir in rose water (or chosen flavoring) to taste and a few drops of food dye. Blend in nuts if used and remove from heat.

6. Pour into an oiled 9-inch square cake pan and leave for 12 hours to set. (I used a round cake pan and pie plate because it's what I have.)

7. Combine icing sugar and the 1/4 cup cornflour in a flat dish.

8. Cut Turkish Delight into squares with an oiled knife and toss in sugar mixture. Store in a sealed contained with remaining sugar mixture sprinkled between layers.

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