The fame of Turkish delight; one of the most important inventions of Turkish confectionery, has extended out to the world. From the moment it was invented, foreigners viewed it as an exotic sweetmeat from the Orient. It was regarded as a big secret, as they did not know what it was made out of. Turkish delight was referred as “rahatü’l-hulkum” (the thing that passes through the throat easily) due to its nature and its ability to soothe the throat. Then the name has been modified to “rahat lokum”, “latilokum” then finally to “lokum” which remains as its name until today. It happened to be an English tourist that christened “lokum” as Turkish Delight. The foreign travelers who visited Istanbul started purchasing boxes and boxes Turkish Delight to take back to their countries. Soon after export of Turkish delight started to Europe. Despite its popularity, the foreign visitors were quite unsure about the ingredients of lokum as well as the cooking method used. So it remained a big mystery for quite some time. The biggest reason for that was the main ingredient, wheat starch was not considered as a food item in Europe at the time. Therefore nobody imagined the chewy and transparent texture was caused by starch. It was thought to have a complex list of ingredients, whereas the list is quite simple; water, wheat starch, sugar and the flavoring of choice (eg. Pistachio, hazelnut, rose, mastic etc.)
Although the ingredient list is so simple, the making of lokum requires real expertise as timing is everything when cooking. The water, starch, and sugar are boiled for about 2 hours until it forms the desired consistency while being stirred constantly in the same direction. Then the flavoring is added and this mixture is poured into special wooden trays dusted with a mixture of starch and powdered sugar then left to set for a day or so. The dried sheet of lokum is transferred onto a work surface, cut into small cubes and dusted more with a mixture of starch and powdered sugar, and becomes ready for consumption.
Lokum that is made using traditional method has a melt-in-your-mouth characteristic and is an excellent accompaniment to Turkish coffee.
Here is a Turkish Delight recipe...
PISTACHIO TURKISH DELIGHT
2 lbs. White sugar
3.5 oz. Wheat starch
4 cups Water
5.3 oz. Pistachios, shelled
Powdered sugar, as needed
Wooden tray, 60cm x 40 cm x 5 cm wide
Large, heavy duty knife, preferably with a rounded tip
Pour some powdered sugar into the bottom of the wooden tray and smear until the bottom and the sides are completely covered with a very thin layer of powdered sugar.
Combine water, wheat starch, and sugar in a large pot. Place the pot over medium heat and start stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and becomes toffee consistency.
Add the pistachios and stir for a few more minutes. Then pour the contents of the pot into the wooden tray. Let it cool for at least 2 hours.
Once the Turkish delight is hardened, pour some more powdered sugar on top and take out from the wooden tray. Place on a large cutting board. First, cut 2cm wide strips. Then Cut each strip into 2 cm wide cubes until the whole batch is cut. Dust some more powdered sugar, until all sides are coated.
To store: You can store Turkish delight in an airtight plastic container, for up to 2 months in a cool and dry place.