How to make Turkish delight: Recipe and history
Lokum, known as Turkish delight, is a unique dessert, which has become very popular, associated with Turkey. In its production, sugar is used for sweetening, water for binding and starch as a texture-giving element.
Lokum is a sweet with many benefits, so even doctors recommend kidney patients to eat lokum. Lokum without additional added sugar helps remove toxins from the body. It can also be burnt and turned into an energy source very easily. Turkish delight has been used for a very long time in healing acne, pustules and scars, as well as strengthening and protecting teeth.
It is a traditional dessert served in both special occasions such as festivals, feasts, ceremonies and activities in daily life, such as drinking coffee. With its common consumption, lokum has become a special motif in Turkish society.
As an important part of Turkish cuisine, lokum dates back to 16th century Anatolia. It is spread in other lands that the Ottoman Empire had ruled is believed to go back to late 1700s. In Ottoman Turkish, lokum is called “rahat ul-huküm” which means “throat reliever.” The first lokum shop named “Hacıbekir” was opened in Istanbul.
The Turkish delight, which had become an essential for the palace cookery, was coincidently discovered by an English traveler and started to be produced in Europe by the 1800s. While lokum is known as “Turkish delight” across the world, it is also called “rahat” in Bosnia and Romania, “delica Turca” in Brazil and “loukoumi” in Greece. According to hearsay, the sultan asked his council to find the best cooks and wanted them to make a dessert that would ease the division and disorder in his harem. As a result, it has been said the dessert court confectioners had found what we know today as Turkish delight.
A traditional Turkish delight recipe consists of water, sugar, starch, citric acid and optional various seasonings, powdered sugar, dried nuts and fruits. Before, a combination of molasses and flour would be used instead of a sugar and starch mixture. Depending on the cooking cauldron’s size, the ingredients should be cooked for two hours and after that session, the mixture should rest for 20-24 hours. The next day, lokum will be ready for serving after being diced and covered with powdered sugar.
The most important characteristic of lokum is its tenderness and flexibility. A well-made lokum should expand like a sponge when it is pressed and return to its original form without sticking to hands. Pectization due to the starch provides transparency and shine, which are other significant features of lokum. On the other hand, baking techniques also differ from one type to another. For instance, a popular version of lokum, Turkish delight with high consistency, has a different cooking technique than a classic one.
Lokum has basically become a representation of Turkey when considering its high demand from other countries. In order to guarantee its high quality, the Food, Agriculture and Livestock Ministry put new standard regulation to the production of lokum in 2014.
In Turkey, every region has its own variety of lokum. Some types of lokum that appeal to different taste buds are Turkish delight with hazelnut, rose petals, walnut, pistachio, gum mastic, lemon, peppermint, pomegranate, saffron, chocolate, coconut, and fruit. One of the cities in Turkey, Afyon, famous for its lokum, has produced a lokum consisting of 24-karat gold as an ingredient over a special request.
Lokum prices change depending on the quality, size and brand. There is Turkish delight that costs 10 Turkish Liras ($2.2) as well as 200 liras ($44.5) on the market. Considering the average price ranges, while chocolate covered Turkish delight has higher prices, delights with dried nuts are the next highest, and fruit based ones come after that. With its very affordable price, traditional plain Turkish delight rejoices the hearts of dessert-lovers. Taking overall dessert prices into account, lokum is a reliable dessert that offers varieties of choices, affordable for everyone.
In 2016, even a comedy film called “Turkish Delight” was produced. Directed by Deniz Denizciler, the film’s plot is about an introvert Turkish Anatolian boy named Niyazi, who becomes a popular boy among women at an American College where he attended.
The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels by C. S. Lewis, features Turkish delight, too. In the first book of the series, Edmund was given a Turkish delight by Jadis. “Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted it before,” Lewis had written in the book. The scene was so powerful that many people around the world still describe the Turkish delight as “the sweet of Narnia.”
More trivia to close
In short, from Africa to Asia, many kinds of lokum can be found all over the world. However, the consistency and taste of Turkish delight cannot be found in any other place. In addition to these, not to mention all the emperors, sultans and leaders of their time; globally known writers, artists and presidents of today, also prefer eating lokum with pleasure. It is a great source of pride for Turkish people who make tons of exports every year and bring in millions of dollars of income from those sales.
• In one of the shopping malls located in the Turkish city of Afyon, 1,103 students between 6-12 ages have broken a record by eating Turkish delight at the same time and wrote their names in the Children’s Book of World Records in 2015.