Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis’s famous novel, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is at least somewhat familiar with Turkish delight, young Edmund Pevensie’s proverbial kryptonite. Growing up, I loved Narnia, but never knew what this mysterious treat known as Turkish delight really was or why it was such a big deal.
Recently, I had the privilege to visit Istanbul, Turkey, the birthplace and homeland of this sweet, three separate times. It was on the first of these trips that I discovered authentic Turkish delight firsthand. I fell passionately in love at first bite, and have since had an obsession for the chewy, rich deliciousness—an addiction that makes even Edmund’s infatuation gray in comparison.
The recipe that follows will not quite live up to the standards of the fresh Turkish delight sold in the alleys of an Istanbul marketplace. That simply can’t be beat. But what I offer you is the next best thing—a simple and straightforward recipe that will both gratify your taste buds and transport you to another world.
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Step 1: What You'll Need:
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp powdered sugar
5 tbsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/8 cup water, divided
1/4 tbsp lemon juice(or the juice of 1/8 lemon)
5 tsp cranberry pomegranate juice (or straight up pomegranate juice)
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, shelled(optional, but strongly recommended)
3 small pots
a small pan or dish
oil (to grease pan and knife)
a thermometer (a candy or meat one works best; has to go above 200 degrees)
a whisk, spatula, spoon, sharp knife, and a glass
*this makes about 15 Turkish delight candies, which is a relatively small amount. Perfect for a little snack, but if you want an entire tray, try doubling or tripling the recipe :)
Step 2: A Quick Note
There's a common myth that proper Turkish delight is incredibly hard to make, but this recipe should help you overcome any doubts. The main piece of advice I would give is to pay attention to the recipe and read through it once or twice before starting to make sure you know what you're doing. If you don't pay attention and add ingredients out of order or forget to stir it while it's cooking, I can guarantee the quality of your Turkish delight will be subpar. As long as you follow the recipe closely, though, you should end up with some fine Turkish delight, fit for a sultan. So stay focused and enjoy the process!
Step 3: First Pot
Combine in a pot:
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tbsp lemon juice (or 1/2 lemon)
3/8 cup water
Cook on medium while gently stirring until the sugar fully dissolves. Then turn up the heat to high and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Boil until it reaches about 240 degrees. I don't own a candy thermometer, so I just use a meat thermometer, which only goes to 220, and guesstimate. It should thicken slightly, no longer acting like a liquid. Set aside.
*Start the next step before you finish this one.
Step 4: Second Pot
A few minutes before the first pot is finished cooking, combine in a second pot:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup cold water
Mix until everything is dissolved and makes a thick white paste.
Step 5: Third Pot
In a third pot, boil 1/2 cup water.
Step 6: Combine Second and Third Pot
Gradually pour the boiling water into the second pot (the cornstarch mixture) while whisking. Make sure all the lumps are broken up and mixed in.
Step 7: Combine First and Second Pot
Gradually pour the first pot (the sugar mixture) into the second pot (the cornstarch mixture) while whisking. Whisk until this "dough" it is completely smooth and lump-free.
Step 8: Cook the "Dough"
Bring the "dough" to a gentle boil on medium, then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes or until the mixture starts browning or burning, stirring regularly. Use a spoon to scrape the sides of the pot clean.
As you cook it, the dough will slowly get thicker and thicker, turning into a gluey, stretchy mess. It may be tempting to take it off before the 45 minutes are up, but resist the urge. If you take it off too early, your Turkish delight will be too gooey. If your mixture starts to brown before the 45 minutes are up, immediately remove it from the heat. By the end your dough should be almost completely separated from the bottom of the pot and should resemble a large booger, in both consistency and color. (Pleasant, huh?)
Step 9: Add Flavoring
Remove the mixture from the stove and mix in the 5 tsp of cranberry pomegranate (or pomegranate) juice.
Step 10: Add Pistachios (Optional)
Use the bottom of a glass to gently crush the 1/4 cup of pistachios, then mix it into the dough.
Step 11: Put Dough in a Dish
Line a small, walled dish with foil and lightly grease it. Scrape the dough out of the pot and into the dish, laying it 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Smooth it out then lay a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface. Let it sit out on a counter overnight or for 6-8 hours.
Step 12: Powder Coating
After the dough has sat, combine 1/16 cup cornstarch and 1/8 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle about half of the mixture on a cutting board.
Step 13: Cutting
Flip the dough out of the dish facedown onto the cutting board. Using a well-greased knife, begin cutting the Turkish delight into small, 3/4 to 1 inch squares. Sprinkle the remaining powder over the top, then roll each individual piece in it, making sure to get them fully coated. Place the finished Turkish delights in a container or on a plate for serving.
Step 14: Voila!
There you have it! This is a perfect treat to share with family or friends, but I won't blame you if you don't want to share. This heavenly delicacy is so incredibly addicting that I've eaten an entire batch in one sitting! Enjoy!
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