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Sunday 18 March 2012

Turkish Delight (made in Harrow)

Wherein I opine that, while certainly decadent, home-made Turkish Delight cannot be considered self-indulgent if it's a Mothers' Day gift.

Of course since I'm only writing it up today, it's a bit late for anyone else to try for Mothers' Day but, let's face it, if you haven't already sorted out your Mothers' Day gift, you're just a bad person.

So, here we are, buoyed by the success of home-made truffles (and conveniently ignoring the dismal failure of home-made cream soda) making Turkish Delight from scratch. Like truffles, it's a very simple recipe in terms of its ingredients. The process is a rather more complicated three-stage system, where two mixtures are made up separately, then mixed together. Also like truffles, it's one of those recipes that varies wildly wherever you go looking for it. There is a great tendency, these days, to go for convenience, and use gelatin... this, however, is not the favourite option because there are those who cannot or will not eat gelatin - those who have allergies and vegetarians will tend to steer well clear.

Thankfully, mine is going to be a more old-fashioned, allergen-free (I hope! Someone please tell me I'm ignoring any!) version that should be perfectly edible to one and all.

Apart from those strange people who don't like Turkish Delight. But, being fair, there is something a little sinister about a jelly-like confectionary that tastes like roses.

Nevertheless, let us begin...

  • 800g Granulated/Caster Sugar 
  • 120g Cornflour
  • 1 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice (Waitrose Cooks' Ingredients 'A Dash of Sicilian Lemon Juice')
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosewater (Star Kay White's)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dusting: approx 360g Icing Sugar + 90g Cornflour
Preparation Time: About 30 minutes mixing, 1 hour simmering, plus cooling/setting time (overnight - 12+ hours)

Tools Required:
  • 2 Medium/Large Saucepans
  • Jam-makers' Thermometer
  • Large Plastic/Wooden Spoon or Spatula (for stirring)
  • 20cm Baking Pan
  • Grease-Proof Paper
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Long, Sharp Knife
The Process:
Pour approx 300ml water into a medium/large saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and approx 800g sugar. Yes, that's a lot of sugar. I actually made the mistake of thinking "wow, 300ml isn't a lot of water... I should be able to make do with a small saucepan for this part." By the time this mixture was bubbling away, my saucepan very nearly overfloweth. Let my folly be a warning to you, gentle reader, to ensure your saucepans are larger. Stir on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then reduce to a low heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, aiming to hit a tempertature of about 120C on your thermometer. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the second saucepan, heat approximately 700ml water, again on medium. mix together about 120g cornflour and a teaspoon of cream of tartar, then add to the water gradually, stirring all the while to avoid lumps. Keeps stirring as the mixture begins to boil, only stopping when the whole lot thickens and becomes gummy.

Add the previously-prepared lemony sugar-water mixture and stir in thoroughly for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow to simmer for a full hour, stirring every so often.

While that's going, prepare your baking tin by pouring in a small amount of vegetable oil and spreading it around the inner surfaces. Line the tin with grease-proof paper, and oil that in the same way.

After an hour, the mixture should become a smooth, mostly transparent golden slime, possibly with a faintly lemon scent (or maybe that was my imagination). Take off the heat and thoroughly stir in 2 tablespoons of rosewater. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin, and allow to cool before putting into the fridge overnight.

Mix together 4 parts icing sugar to 1 part cornflour in a bowl. When it's ready, tip the brick of Turkish Delight out onto a clean surface (might be worth dusting the surface slightly with the icing sugar/cornflour mix, or just put down a fresh layer of greaseproof paper). Lightly oil a sharp knife and cut the brick into even chunks. Shake them in the icing sugar/cornstarch mixture and set aside. Serve immediately or refrigerate with layers separated by greaseproof paper, and all the remaining sugar/cornflour mix dumped in to prevent sticking.

The Results:
I must confess that I sneakily tasted the mixture after pouring it out into the tin. It's extremely sticky, and even going at it with a spoon left a fair among of the slimy stuff in the saucepan, so my tasting was actually a measure to reduce wastage. Honest.

At this stage, while still slightly warm and sort-of liquid, the rosewater flavouring was quite subtle, much like the traditionally-made Turkish Delight you can sometimes pick up in the market that operates around London's Southbank area (close to the London Eye), rather than the over-sweetened, artificially-flavoured jelly that tends to appear in the high street shops.

Once set, it came out of the oiled grease-proof paper quite easily, but cutting it to size, even with an oiled knife, was very tricky. Whether there was something off about my mixture, or perhaps it should have remained in the fridge rather longer, I'm not sure... but I know it's supposed to be pretty sticky - which is why one coats it in the sugar/cornflour mixture - so maybe it was spot on.

The process of coating each piece didn't go very smoothly either. I couldn't quite tell if it was falling off or just soaking in to the surface of the sweet, but the power dusting seemed to fade after a few minutes. I tried re-coating a couple of pieces, but it wasn't particularly effective. The only way to keep them nice and dusted seems to be to make far more of the dusting that you need simply to coat them, and store the pieces in the dusting. Airtight containment shouldn't be an issue, because these things seem to sweat rather a lot and, as previously noted, proper Turkish Delight can be found in open-air markets.

Flavour-wise, they're still pretty subtle, but they definitely taste like Turkish Delight the rosewater is far more prominent than it was in slime-form. Perhaps it needed to 'breathe' for a while, but they turned out tasting just right (if I do say so myself). They do perhaps taste a little heavy on the sugar, so my next batch may cut down on that slightly...
The word from the folks was generally positive, though my father queried the lack of pink (believing the rosewater to be responsible for the 'usual' colour) and pointed out that I may have made a small error of judgement at the 'simmer for one hour' stage, because I put the lid on the saucepan. The point of simmering, he reckoned, is to boil away some of the water... and it seems likely that's why my Turkish Delight was sweating.

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