Thursday, April 4, 2013

Turkish Delight - How is it made?

So in addition to my crazy life as a single mom and cake baker, I am also a real estate agent.   I have a client who is purchasing a new construction home and we've developed a fairly close and fun relationship with the on-site sales rep, Lauren.  My client travels to Turkey fairly often and Lauren used to live in Turkey.  This of course led to multiple conversations as well as Lauren's love of Turkish Delight - a Persian candy/confection that is apparently hard to find here in the U.S. Most people have heard of it from the movie "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"... apparently someone tempts Edward with this seemingly irresistible confection.

Anyhow, my client had recently gone to Turkey and brought some Turkish Delight back for Lauren.  As luck would have it (for me!) he gave it to her at one of our meetings and I got to try it. It was quite possibly the strangest "sweet" I had ever tasted, and yet it was so intriguing!

First of all, it was so beautiful to look at.  It was a rectangular box filled with different colored cubes of these delectable delights.  Some were covered in powdered sugar, some were a greenish hue (I think covered with finely chopped pistachios) and the others appeared to be coated in beautifully dried  rose petals.  They really were quite stunning.

While they looked very different, they all seemed to taste fairly similar.  They were chewy, sort of, kind of like a gummy bear or gum drop, but it didn't stick to my teeth at all.  It was very sweet and these particular ones were flavored with rose water.  Yes... ROSE water... it was kind of like eating flowers... or potpourri.  Some of them had pistachios in them, and some did not (the ones with pistachios were my favorite). But as startling and odd as the flavor was, it was also very intriguing.

So now the "baker" wheels in my head are turning... How do you make this?  I wonder if I can find a recipe?  How hard would it be?  I really, really want to try to make this!

And that is where my Turkish Delight obsession began...  Now, I'm a baker/cake decorator.  I make cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc.  I love making eclairs, cream puffs, creme brulee, homemade breads, pies and the like.  Candy making?  Not so much.  My candy making experience is somewhat limited.

Had someone asked me to make Turkish Delight?.... No... and most likely, they never will.  This, however, did not deter me from attempting this strange confection.  So off to the internet I went.  After reviewing a few recipes and reviews, I picked one that seemed to be the most in keeping with the traditional Turkish Delight.  Surprisingly, the list of ingredients is really short.

The next difficulty was finding rose water... I don't know about where you live, but my local grocery store does not stock rose water.  I am fortunate, however, because we have a Savory Spice Shop ( here in Austin and they carry rose water, in addition to a multitude of other spices, flavorings, extracts and emulsions... If you have one where you live, I highly recommend you check it out.

So... here we go...



  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater
  • raw pistachios, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • Vegetable oil or shortening


Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 inch baking pan with vegetable oil or shortening. Line with wax paper and grease the wax paper.  Take care with this step... it is very important... you will regret it later if that was paper doesn't completely cover the pan or if you don't use enough shortening!

In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water on medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  THIS TOOK F O R E V E R!  Don't get frustrated as it could take up to an hour for this mixture to reach 240 degrees.  I was convinced more than once that my candy thermometer was broken!  

Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine cream of tartar, 1 cup of the corn starch  and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all lumps are gone and the mixture begins to boil. This happens pretty quickly.

 Stop stirring when the mixture has a glue like consistency. 

Add the lemon juice, water and sugar mixture to the corn starch mixture. 

Stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.  It will look like this at first, but don't panic... It all comes together.

The recipe said to cook for five minutes, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for one hour until the mixture has become a golden brown color.  Mine was golden brown fairly quickly so I didn't cook it for an hour.  I think I should have cooked it longer and this might have been the cause of how wet my candy was and how long it took before it stopped "weeping" (this is discussed further below).  

Next... add the rose water...

Add food coloring now if you choose.  I used just a dot of soft pink food coloring... I think the rose color is so pretty.

Here's the mixture after the color has been incorporated...  don't you think the steam from the hot mixture adds a certain ambiance to the photo?

At this time, add the pistachios if you've opted to add them...

 Next, pour the mixture into your prepared pan... Let it cool/set overnight.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE!  Of course, I have no idea what happens if you put it in the refrigerator, but my research repeatedly warned against refrigeration, so I'm passing that advice along to you.

The next day, carefully remove the gelatinous block from the pan.  This might just be one of the strangest textures you've encountered.... You want to slice it into approximate 1 inch cubes.  It definitely helps to use a really sharp, long bladed knife, and to oil the knife repeatedly during this process.

Once it has cooled overnight, sift together confectioners sugar and remaining cornstarch.

Turn over baking pan containing Turkish delight onto clean counter or table and cut with oiled knife into one inch pieces.

Coat with confectioners sugar mixture. Serve or store in airtight container in layers separated with wax or parchment paper.

I put mine onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper that had been generously dusted with a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch (for the powdered sugar mixture, use 1/4 cup corn starch for each cup of powdered sugar)

Sift the powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch together and generously dust the candy with the powdered sugar mixture.  Eventually, you will want to put these in a bowl with the powdered sugar mixture and toss to coat them thoroughly.  My candy was very wet and somewhat fragile at this point.  

 This is where I ran into some issues.  The candy was very "wet" and continued to "weep" through the powdered sugar.  After doing some research, this seemed to be a common problem.  The solution was to allow the candy to air dry for basically, as long as it takes until it no longer weeps.  Eventually, I put the candy in a bowl (after it had firmed up a bit) with the powdered sugar mixture and continued to toss it - recoating it - for several days until it was no longer weeping.


So here it is... my first attempt at Turkish Delight.  It's a strangely unique confection, and is most likely an acquired taste for most of us in the U.S.  It's kind of weird to eat candy that basically tastes like flowers!  Every time I eat a piece, my first reaction is "hmmm... unusual... not sure if I really like it"... but it never fails that I always go back for a second piece.

I think next time I make it (assuming there IS a next time) I'm going to try orange blossom water flavor.  I think it might be more palatable and familiar for the western palate.


  1. The photo is beautiful! Wish I could have tasted it!

  2. Solution for the weeping: we need to try using a mixture of corn syrup and/or invert sugars, which are more hygroscopic - in other words, they'll hold water better :-)

    I'm going to play around and see if I can come up with a more stable recipe - I do have a pro recipe, but it uses special stach to give that nice, clear look.