Sunday, May 26, 2013

Around the World in Food Month, Turkish Delights

LFS Turkish Delights
     When I was a child one of my favorite books was, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  In that book and in others they refer to a type of candy called Turkish delights.  As a child they sounded so exotic and elegant, I wondered what they would be like, would I like them?  Where could I find them?  It was several years after first reading about Turkish delight that I was actually able to try these delicacies.  I loved them from the first bite.  I was so surprised when I first saw them, because they were similar to a candy that I was already familiar with, Aplets & Cotlets or Fruit Delights.  We had those for special occasions when I was a kid. My mother, being allergic to milk, was very limited in the types of candy that she got to indulge in.  Aplets and Cotlets were always her special treat, and when I tried Turkish delights I recognized immediately the similarities.   So it is fair to say that I have definite emotional connections to these treats. 
     I was eager to try these in Turkey, after all they are called Turkish delights for a reason.  They were delicious there of course, and you were able to buy boxes of them everywhere you looked.  I did not buy any for the sole reason that I have been making my own Turkish delights for years and I love my recipe.  They are so simple to make, and really pretty economical as well.  Plus when I make them myself I get to make them exactly how I want, and I do firmly believe that homemade from scratch just tastes better than boxed and packaged.  I think you'll like this recipe, its a crowd pleaser, and great for gift giving.

Love From Scratch Turkish Delights

Ingredients

3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup honey                                                                                      
3 cups  water                                                                                   
Pinch of cream of tartar                                                                                     
1 cup cornstarch                                                                                    
1 cup powdered sugar                                                
2 1/2 cups water   

Flavorings & Dredging Ingredients

1 teaspoon cream of tartar                                                                                 
3 teaspoons rosewater                                                                                        
2 cups shelled roasted unsalted pistachios or walnuts, or a combination
1/4 cup powdered sugar, for dusting the cutting board                                        
1/2 cup cornstarch sifted together with 1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)

Directions

Generously coat a rimmed 9 by 13 baking sheet with cooking spray, and set it aside. Make the sugar syrup, combine the sugar, honey, 3 cups water, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and insert the candy thermometer. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 260°F(hard ball stage), about 15 minutes. In a large (6-quart) saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, powdered sugar, 2 1/2 cups water, and cream of tartar to combine. Once the sugar syrup reaches 250°F(firm ball stage), place the cornstarch mixture over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk; it will thicken and boil quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the mixture on the hot burner; stirring a few times with a whisk, and set aside. The sugar syrup should be close to 260°F(hard ball stage); when it reaches that temperature, remove it from the heat and carefully pour it into the cornstarch mixture. Be very careful not to splatter, it will burn horribly. 

Stir well with the whisk to combine. Bring everything to a low boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to low and cook at a low simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and a light golden color, 30 to 45 minutes.  Watch and stir constantly so it doesn’t scorch or burn. Remove the pan from the heat and add the desired flavorings: stir in the rosewater, nuts, lemon zest, and food coloring (if using).

Wearing oven mitts or gloves (this really does burn, be careful!), immediately pour the candy into the baking sheet. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the candy to prevent it from forming a crust as it cools, I know it sounds odd, but just do it.  Cool until it has set and is firm and cool to the touch, about 8 hours or overnight. 

Gently pry off the plastic wrap. Generously dust a cutting board with the confectioners' sugar. Run the tip of a paring knife between the candy and the sheet, and gently turn the candy out onto the prepared board. Place the cornstarch mixture in a medium-size bowl. Generously coat a sharp chef's knife with cooking spray, don’t use water it will stick, and oil will taste funny, just use PAM, it works great, and use a gentle slicing motion to cut the candy into 1-inch or so squares. Gently toss the pieces in the cornstarch mixture until well coated. Store the Turkish delights, layered with wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 1 month, but they never last that long, they are addictive!

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