Aromatic, sweet + soft, rose Turkish Delight (lokum) is really simple to make, and is a luxurious treat any day of the year, not just at Christmas time!
What is Turkish Delight?
Turkish Delight, or lokum, is a gel-like candy, made from cornflour (cornstarch) and sugar. It can be flavoured with aromatics, such as rose or lemon. Or with nuts. For example, walnuts, or pistachios. Date, bergamot, and mastic are all popular flavours, too.
As a child living with my grandparents, Christmas meant one thing… Actually, it meant a lot of things but what I remember most vividly is being allowed to have a snowball (advocaat and lemonade), and the welcome appearance of the large round wooden boxes of rose and lemon Turkish Delight that made their way into our home every December.
For some reason, we only ever had Turkish Delight at Christmas but for me, those soft, delicately-flavoured cubes of confection heaven were the best thing ever. Better than the family visits. Better than all the Elvis films on TV. Better than the huge pillowcase full of presents at the end of my bed. I’m not joking.
Turkish Delight in Narnia
Plus, I was a huge fan of the Narnia stories, and in particular, Jadis, so I guess it was only right that I should love Turkish Delight so much.
In fact, come to think of it, perhaps that’s why it was traditional to only have Turkish Delight at Christmas in Britain because Jadis cast a spell of eternal winter over Narnia, and Christmas falls in winter. At least in the Northern Hemisphere!
Fry's Turkish Delight
When I was a bit older, and was allowed to have chocolate bars*, Fry’s Turkish Delight was always high on my list of treats. It was nothing like the stuff we had at Christmas but I loved the chocolate coating and the intense rose flavour of the translucent pink centre.
*(A sure sign I was growing up because in my family, kids were only allowed penny sweets. Bars were reserved for grown-ups and teenagers, and once a year in Christmas stockings).
Fry's Turkish Delight | Image credit: Evan Amos
In 2000, I spent some time in Turkey, and resolved to positively stuff my face with Turkish Delight for as long as possible. (Never let a good nomming opportunity go to waste, I say.)
What a surprise! It was nothing like I was used to. Far from just the usual rose and lemon, the lokum came in myriad flavours, and was not as sweet as the Christmas stuff. Some of it was even covered in coconut instead of icing sugar.
(Actually, it's a combo of icing sugar and cornflour... but let's not split hairs here.)
I loved it!
The first time I went to the home of one of my Turkish friends, I was shown to the best room in the house. In Turkish homes, a room is reserved for receiving visitors, much like parlours and reception rooms in British households. I was plied with delicious apple tea and lokum.
My friend told me that the reason for the tea and lokum is because it’s believed that if you put something sweet in the mouth, then something sweet comes out. That is to say, good conversation.
After drinking apple tea, and eating a few pieces of lokum, I cannot imagine having a bad word to say about anything.
Speaking of tea, many people seem to be under the impression that Turks only drink coffee and apple tea. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Go to any market, and you'll see scores of different types of herbs and flowers for making tea!
Another Turkish friend described lokum as being ‘Turkish Viagra, as he winked at me, and ate yet another piece! >ahem<
Of all the different Turkish Delight I ate while in Turkey, my favourite was always the rose, though. Chalk that up to my childhood. And CS Lewis.
Turkish Delight in The Balkans
When amato mio and I lived in Belgrade (Serbia), I was delighted (no pun intended) to discover that because of the Ottoman influence still prevalent in the country, Turkish Delight is a big thing there too. Yay!
In Serbia, Turkish Delight is called ratluk, which is a corruption of the Turkish, rahat lokum. This is itself a corruption of the Arabic, rāḥat al-hulqūm, which translates as ‘comfort of the throat’. It alludes to lokum's early medicinal use, around the 9th century.
When we lived in Transylvania (Romania), we discovered that there too, Turkish Delight is a thing. And it's called rahat, which Google Translate tells me means 'shit'. Pretty sure Google is lying to me.
Check out these sweet treats, while you're here!
- raspberry truffles
- peanut figgy truffles
- fudge brownies
- cookie butter blondies
- salted caramel chocolate pots
Lumps of delight!
The name, Turkish Delight, was allegedly coined in either the late 18th or early 19th century by an un-named British traveller who brought a sizeable stash of lokum home with him. Not, as some claim, by the eminent Victorian explorer, Sir Richard Burton.
During the mid-19th century, when lokum began to be imported into Britain on a regular basis, it became known by the rather less glamorous name of Lumps of Delight. Which just makes me think of this painting by the wonderful Beryl Cook!
These gentlemen seem to be rather fond of the lady's lumps of delight! | Strippergram ©Beryl Cook
What's in Turkish Delight?
I am aware that some people make lokum with gelatine but that’s not the authentic way to make Turkish Delight. Real lokum is made with cornflour (cornstarch for you non-European readers). There really is no need to add gelatine, especially as doing so would render the lokum non-vegetarian.
Making Turkish delight is simply a case of adding sugar syrup to a cornflour and cream of tartar paste, cooking for an hour, flavouring and colouring the mix, turning out into a suitable container, waiting for it to cool, then cutting into cubes, and dusting with icing sugar and cornflour to prevent sticking. It really is as easy at that.
You can buy rosewater from online retailers, such as Amazon, or at Middle Eastern and Indian supermarkets.
Turkish Delight recipe
- lemon juice
- cream of tartar
- cornflour (cornstarch)
- icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 2 tbsp cornflour
How to make Turkish Delight
- You'll need to make the syrup first, by boiling up some water, lemon juice, and sugar.
- Then, while the syrup is cooling, you can make the cornflour (cornstarch) paste by boiling cornstarch and water until thick.
- After that, you'll need to pour the syrup into the paste, and whisk until it's semi-translucent.
- Bring the paste to a boil, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and simmer for an hour or so.
- Once the paste is a deep golden colour, you can turn off the heat, and add the rosewater.
- Next, you'll need to pour the paste into an oiled and lined dish, make sure it's level, then cover with a piece of oiled parchment, and leave to set for 5-6 hours.
- Finish the Turkish Delight by cutting into squares, and toss in a mixture of cornflour and icing sugar (confectioners' sugar).
It's time-consuming but worth every minute!
Simple Rose-Flavoured Turkish Delight
For the Turkish Delight
- 400 g granulated sugar
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 435 ml water
- 65 g cornflour , (cornstarch)
- ½ tbsp rosewater
- A few drops of red food colouring , (make sure it’s vegan)
- 80 g icing sugar , (confectioner’s sugar)
- 2 tbsp cornflour
Not strictly necessary but it will save your arms:
Prepare the syrup:
- Place the sugar, lemon juice, and 185ml (¾ cup) of the water into a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.
- Stir constantly, until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil, and brush down the inside of the pan with cold water (this will stop crystals forming). Insert the thermometer - don’t let it rest on the bottom of the pan though, or you’ll get a false reading.
- Boil the syrup (keep stirring), until it reaches 115°C (240°F). (This is the soft ball stage. If you’re not using a thermometer, you will need to test the syrup by dropping a teaspoonful into a glass of cold water. If it forms a soft ball, the syrup is ready. It should take anywhere between 10-15 minutes to reach this stage.)
- Remove the pan from the heat. The syrup will be a light gold colour.
Make the Turkish Delight:
- While the syrup is cooling slightly, place the rest of the water (250ml / 1 cup + 2 tsp) into another heavy-based pan over a medium heat, along with the cream of tartar (to stop the sugar crystallising), and the cornflour. Whisk to make sure there are no lumps.
- Whisk the mixture constantly, until it boils, and you have a very thick paste. Turn off the heat.
- Carefully, and slowly, pour the syrup into the cornflour paste, a little at a time, making sure to keep whisking. Once you’ve added in all the syrup, whisk a little more to ensure that there are no lumps, and you have a smooth, golden, semi-translucent paste.
- Scrape down the sides of the pan, or else you’ll get crusty stuff falling into the paste.
- Over a medium heat, and stirring all the time, slowly bring the paste to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to its lowest setting, and gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. The paste will now be a deep golden colour. Turn off the heat, mix in the rosewater and food colouring (if using).
- Oil the dish or baking tin, and line with baking parchment. Oil the baking parchment.
- Pour the Turkish Delight into the prepared dish, and give it a bit of a shake to ensure the mixture gets right into the corners.
- Cover with a piece of oiled baking parchment, and leave for around five to six hours to cool and set.
Finish the Turkish Delight:
- When it’s ready, it will feel firm, and slightly tacky on top.
- Sift together the icing sugar and the rest of the cornflour into a large bowl, then sieve some of this over the surface of the Turkish Delight, until it’s all covered.
- Sieve more icing sugar/cornflour over a large chopping board or work surface.
- Turn out the Turkish Delight onto the powder, and gently peel away the baking parchment. Sieve more of the icing sugar mix over the surface.
- Using a large oiled knife, cut the Turkish Delight into 36 cubes. I’ve been told that a pizza cutter works really well for this.
- Place each cube of Turkish Delight into the bowl with the rest of the icing sugar mix, and toss them around to ensure they are all well-coated.
- Store at room temperature in between sheets of baking parchment, and covered with the rest of the icing sugar/cornflour mixture in a container with a loosely-fitting lid.
- Don’t refrigerate, or else the Turkish Delight will sweat, and become a nasty, gooey mess!
- This will keep for a good couple of months; however, the longer it's kept, the more chewy it will become. If you want it to be soft, eat within a week or two.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml