Turkish Delight is a candy with a gummy, rubbery texture, though some mass commercial versions can be quite hard.
It is made from sugar, rose water, corn starch, and water, with the addition of cream of tartar to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Some versions are sweeter than others.
Turkish Delight is usually tinted pink or green.
To make Turkish Delight the sugar, water and corn starch are mixed together and boiled from 1 to 2 hours at 300 F (149 C.) Cooking it too long will make it hard; cooking it too little will cause it not to set.
The cooked mixture is then poured into flat wooden trays sprinkled with more corn starch, then more corn starch is sprinkled on top of the mixture. It is allowed to set for 24 to 48 hours, then removed from the tray, the starch is brushed off, and it is sprinkled with icing sugar (aka powdered sugar), then cut into pieces. Better quality Turkish Delight is often sold packed in wooden boxes.
Turkish Delight is sometimes coated in chocolate or has chopped nuts in it such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts, or pine nuts. It can also have fruit such as candied sour cherries, candied lemon or orange peel, dried apricots, or strawberries. It may be flavoured with mint, mastic, or vanilla. It may have dried, shredded coconut in it or may be dusted with dried, shredded coconut in lieu of the icing sugar.
In Afyon, Turkey, clotted cream (made locally) is added; this version is called “kaymakli lokum.”
Many people don’t like the texture of Turkish Delight, and compare it to congealed latex.
Turkish Delight is also made in Cyprus, where it’s called “Loukkoumi.”
In the UK, Turkish Delight is made by Cadbury’s; their version is chocolate-coated. Their Turkish Delight was actually first launched as Fry’s in 1924 (Cadbury’s later bought Fry’s out.) Cadbury’s slogan for their Turkish Delight is “Full of Eastern Promise.”
In North America, it appears that Turkish Delight is only made commercially by a company called “Bayco” in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Low in fat.
Turkish Delight as we know it came about with the introduction of sugar in the late 1700s. Earlier versions of Turkish Delight used honey or grape syrup as the sweetener, and flour instead of starch.
There are many legends around the invention of Turkish Delight, all involving sultans of course. One is that a sultan (Abdul Hamid I) ordered his confectioner to create something as a treat for his many bored mistresses (Turkish sultans were allowed only four wives, but hundreds of mistresses.) Another is that a sultan (unnamed) wanted soft candies that didn’t hurt his teeth.
Turkish Delight, as we know it now, was actually created in Istanbul by Haci Bekir from Araç in Kastamonu. Bekir’s real name was Bekir Effendi, but he became known as Haci Bekir after he completed his pilgrimage to Mecca. In 1777, Bekir opened a sweet shop in the Bahcekapi district of Istanbul (the old quarter now.) It was a very small shop, at the corner of Hamidiye Caddesi and Seyhülislam Hayri Efendi Caddesi, two blocks east of what is now called the New Mosque (“Yeni Cami”.)
There, Bekir made and sold lokum, which we now call in English “Turkish Delight.” Again, he was not the first to make Turkish Delight, but he was the first to switch to using sugar (beet sugar) and cornstarch (sometime in the first few decades of the 1800s) instead of grape molasses and flour. Bekir became famous throughout the city for the cleanliness of his shop and the quality of his sweets (not just his lokum, but other candies as well such as “akide”), and was appointed “Chief Confectioner” to the Ottoman Court by Abdul Hamid I (20 March 20 1725 to 7 April 1789.)
When Bekir died at the age of 95, the shop passed to his son Muhiddin and then to Muhiddin’s son, named Ali (died 1974 aged 83.) The name of the store became “Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir.”
As of 2006, the business is still owned by Ali’s daughter, Bekir’s great-granddaughter, and is still called “Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir Confectioners.” It is also still in the same small shop in the same location, though not all the candy is made there now. The family has a factory outside of Istanbul in Pendik, along with two other shops in Istanbul, two in Ankara and one in Cairo (as of 2006.)
Turkish Delight was reputedly introduced to the West by some unknown traveller who brought it back to England. It is entirely probable that many travellers brought it back to Europe, but it came to the attention of the general public through being awarded a Silver Medal at the Vienna Fair in 1873.
Literature & Lore
In the Louvre, there is a painting of an aged Haci Bekir weighing out candy (often assumed to be Turkish Delight), painted by Vittorio Amadeo, 5th Count Preziosi (1816-1882.)
“‘Tis sweet with the meat of the lichi nut,
Combined with the kumquat rind,
The kind of confection
To drive a man out of
His Mesopotamian mind!…”
— From the song “Rahadlakum”, from the musical “Kismet” by Wright and George Forrest. 1953. (Sung by Joan Diener on Broadway; Dolores Gray in the film.)
“The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious…” — . C.S. Lewis. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Turkish Delight in Turkish is called “Lokum” or “loukoum”, or “rahat lokum” meaning “comfortable morsel” or “rest for the throat”, depending on whose translation you go by.
The Turkish word comes from the Arabic phrase “rahat ul hulkum” meaning “soothing to the throat.”
Associated Press. Turks riled as Cyprus set to win EU trademark on Turkish Delight. International Herald Tribune. 13 December 2007.
Brown, Jonathan. The Lion, the Witch & the Turkish Delight. London: The Independent. 5 December 2005.
Howe, Marvin. Fare of the Country (Turkish Delight). New York: New York Times. 23 October 1983.