One of my favourite sweets is the confection known in the English world as Turkish Delight. My first introduction to it was as a child in a mass market chocolate bar called Big Turk which left me rather non-plussed. It was during my first trip to Greece that I found out what a heavenly delight it was. There, you would find Loukoumia (the Greek term) piled high in sweet shops of any town – rose, pistachio, lemon, nuts or no nuts – all covered in a light dusting of confectioners sugar. The result: aromatic, pleasantly sweet, and scrumptiously fresh and soft.
Although the origins of Turkish Delight appear to be from Persia as a “sweet jelly” called Ahbisa (Wikipedia), it was the Turks who brought it to the mass market. They have been producing it since 15th century and call it Lokum or Rahat Hulkum (the Arabic name). Lokum can be found all over Turkey, the Middle East, and Greece (to name a few) under variations on the name. In Greece, the best Loukoumia is said to be made on the island of Syros which I have yet to try – an excuse to go to another island. But really, if you’re not too picky, Loukoumia anywhere in Greece is divine.
Normally, here in Canada, I buy my Loukoum at my local Mid-East grocery. Its often hit and miss as its hard to tell for how long the box has been sitting on the shelf. When its old, its chewy and not very flavourful, but when its good, its wonderful. For a few years now I’ve been itching to make my own – I’ve had a bottle of Rosewater in the the cupboard for that express purpose. But I am always a little nervous about candy making. I don’t have a candy thermometer. What if it boils over and burns me? What if its just a plain catastrophe?
A post by fellow blogger, Abu Fares, about a magical day trip in Northern Syria that included the purchase of Rahat Holkum, got me thinking about making it again. And so I have. I used a meat thermometer, it did not boil over and burn me, and it was not a catastrophe – the second time. The first time I didn’t boil it long enough and it was one big mess of sugary gel. But the second time was much better. I’m betting by the 3rd and 4th time, I’ll have it down! I’m still rather pleased with the results (as in photo above) and recommend that you try it too.
Turkish Delight (Lokum, Loukoumia, Rahat Holkum, etc.)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tbsps cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp flavouring (rosewater, mastic, orange, lemon)
- Colouring (choose according to flavour)
- ½ cup chopped toasted nuts, pistashios or almonds (optional)
- Confectioners sugar for dusting
- Dissolve sugar and cornstarch in water.
- Add cream of tartar.
- Boil to 220 degrees F.
- Cover and boil for 5 minutes longer.
- Remove pot from heat and add flavour, colour, and nuts (if using).
- Pour into oiled shallow pan and let cool and gel.
- When cool, cut into squares and roll each piece in powdered sugar.
- Eat! (you can share if you want to)
May you all have a sweet, sweet Christmas! Happy Holidays!