Perhaps you are unaware of this, but I post a couple times a month on a massive nerd site called Legendarium Media. I’m a nerd, so I can say that. Since I had this legally-questionable cookbook just sitting around, I figured I could still post the recipes using the original text. So, all my posts consist of text from “Astrid’s Modern Hobbit Recipes.” The recipes are the same, and the arrangement is completely different, plus I occasionally change the wording to reflect recent developments, such as the release of Peter Jackson’s films.
This has been fun, plus I figure it exposes people to my e-book or my Facebook page, whatever. The site also deals with any type of fandom you can imagine. You can probably imagine that the Narnia fandom is quite large, plus they seem to be even more obsessed with food than the Middle-earth crowd.
So—another reading of the Chronicles of Narnia led me to invent 25 recipes that I will eventually get around posting on the site. As of now, I’ve had a bread and a sugar-topped cake for Mr. Tumnus. If we follow the books, my next recipes should involve the treacherous character of Edmund Pevensie. He drinks something luscious, but is obviously not hot chocolate (though Lewis does mention hot chocolate elsewhere, so I’ve got my deluxe Narnian chocolate ready for future posting). I ended up with coconut and it is quite good—you can read about it here: Edmund’s Downfall.
Then, of course, Edmund asks for…(cue epic and dramatic music here)…Turkish Delight. The White Witch conjures up a “round box, tied with green silk ribbon” which contains “several pounds” of candy. This recipe makes about a pound or so. (Several pounds…what is Lewis thinking?)
My parents used to get plenty of Turkish Delight wrapped up in the American version from Liberty Orchards in Washington state. You’ve seen the boxes around; they’re called Aplets and Cotlets. I would often resort to buying them at Christmas time from Costco (!), because what else do you get your parents when they already have everything? They are quite delicious. I’m doubtful they would make me betray my siblings to some bitchy white witch, but you never know.
They are a candy. They have a specific “chew” to them. I would compare them to a gumdrop, sort of, but they are more sophisticated. They can be covered with powdered sugar, or other ground nuts or seeds, dried coconut, or even chocolate.
In other words, they are NOT a cookie or a cake. They are NOT served cold.
All righty then, I said to myself, let’s make some!
My research starts on the Internet. I read MANY recipes; I try a few. I adapt a few. They are ALL failures. I’m thinking, this is ridiculous, how am I going to present a relatively easy recipe for posting on Legendarium? The stuff just will not set up properly. Is it my altitude? Is candy-making really that hard? Why yes, I’m fairly sure that it is that hard, and that is why I like to buy candy. That is also why I laugh at Bob when he suggests particular candies are too expensive. Now that I’ve been fussing with candy-making, with all its persnickety cooking details, I don’t think I’ll ever complain about paying a higher price for luxury candy.
Many of the recipes resort to gelatin. This results in a cold, wet product that might taste half-way decent, but is certainly not genuine. I fiddled with gelatin a couple of times, and the finished product was basically a Knox Blox-type of goodie. It was so wet, it quickly became melted sugar.
I decided maybe it would be okay to come up with a completely different iteration of Turkish Delight. This led me to experiment with a sort of sweetened condensed milk concoction that needed to be refrigerated. It also suffered from a complete wetness.
None of these items would ever support a powdered sugar coating; the sugar just melts away and becomes a mess. I finally decided I’d had enough and took a trip to Cafe Istanbul, my nearest local Middle Eastern grocery store. At least 20 versions of Turkish Delight stared back at me from the shelves. I ended up buying four, which are pictured below. As I was checking out, I asked the middle-aged, male owner of the store, “Do you know of anyone who makes Turkish Delight? I mean, like your friends, or your family members?” He did not laugh at me, but told me he didn’t know anybody who would bother, though he thought he knew some people in California who did.
Turkish Delight (or rahat lokum, with variations on spellings) is well represented here. My favorite of these ended up being the Sera at the top—it had pistachios and was covered with very fine dried coconut. The Dobrova was also good, as was the chocolate coated Usas at the bottom of the photo. The purple box had four different coatings, but also had soapwort as an ingredient, which produced a sort of marshmallow-type of texture (they were my least favorite, since I don’t care for chewy marshmallow texture).
Although we had different nuts and coatings, and the hint of subtle flavorings (rose water is often an ingredient, though that’s a bit perfume-y), all four packages boiled down to four essential ingredients: sugar, water, cornstarch, and citric acid. NO gelatin, cream of tartar, or corn syrup. Internet recipes will claim lokum is easy to make, but believe me, it is not. Your timing has to be precise; you can’t rely on gelatin to firm up the cubes, and coating your candies can be a mess. If you get them to set up, that is.
Soft ball stage will not accomplish this. Refrigeration should never be necessary to set up your candies; it is a room temperature product. It lasts quite a while just sitting on your counter, loosely covered. As a matter of fact, you should not wrap your candies tightly; they need to breathe and stay dry. I ended up keeping mine covered with a cloth napkin and they were perfectly good for a month. Maybe even two months. I finally threw away what was left of my first successful batch because I was sick of looking at it. And if it comes to what I want to spend my calories on, I’d much rather eat a Godiva nut and caramel chocolate than Turkish Delight.
After making this a time or two, you might really wish that you could simply conjure it up like the White Witch does. Or perhaps you will simply become a loyal customer of Liberty Orchards.
PLEASE be sure to read the entire recipe through before you tackle this.
- 1 ounce shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios
- 1 ounce walnut halves
- 1 ounce whole hazelnuts
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup plus 1 cup water
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon citric acid
- 1½ teaspoons orange extract (or other flavor) ***
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon extract (or other flavor) ***
- A few drops of food coloring, if desired
- Various coatings, listed below
*** FOUR DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***
Chop the nuts coarsely. Combine in a small bowl and set aside.
Coat a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Then keep the liquid at a STEADY, MODERATE BOIL on medium/low heat. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush the inside of the pot occasionally to prevent the sugar from crystallizing on the sides.
Insert a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 260-265° (hard ball stage).
This will take awhile, perhaps 20-40 minutes, depending on various circumstances, but DO NOT IGNORE IT. DO NOT MULTI-TASK, EXCEPT TO DO THIS:
Set up a hand mixer with a whisk attachment; set aside. Place the 1 cup water, cornstarch, citric acid, extracts, and food coloring into a 3-quart saucepan. Combine all with a medium-sized whisk, then place on the stove without turning on the heat. When the sugar mixture reaches the 260° mark, turn heat to the lowest setting and remove the thermometer.
IMMEDIATELY: Turn heat on the cornstarch mixture to high. Cook on high, whisking constantly until fully mixed and starting to boil and thicken. It will become VERY thick.
IMMEDIATELY: Lower the heat a couple notches. Switch to the hand mixer and mix on low speed until the mixture becomes creamy. This might become a bit messy, so try to keep the mixing under control.
IMMEDIATELY: Slowly pour the hot syrup into the cornstarch mixture while mixing on low speed until fully integrated over medium heat. Turn off heat and mix in the nuts with the hand mixer on low speed. Pour into the prepared pan. Place on a rack until completely cool. Cover lightly with a lightweight towel or cloth napkin and let stand overnight.
*** THREE DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***
Sprinkle some powdered sugar on a cutting board. Flip the candy out onto the board.
Cut into 45 pieces using a pizza slicer or other sharp knife.
Line a medium baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the pan. Place the candy pieces on the pan, ¼” apart, uncovered, so they can dry. Cover with the same cloth only overnight.
*** TWO DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***
Turn all the pieces over and let stand, uncovered, all day. Cover lightly overnight.
*** DAY OF SERVING ***
Choose your coating from the Various Coatings listed below and dip each candy.
Various Coatings: Choose one, or use half of two variations.
- ½ cup powdered sugar sifted with ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ cup lightly toasted sesame seeds
- ½ cup shredded, dehydrated coconut (this is what I have used in the finished photo above)
- 8 ounces melted semisweet chocolate (Cool a bit, then dip each candy and place on the same parchment sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, just until the chocolate sets.)
Dip each candy into your desired coating, covering on all sides. Set on a plate. Turkish Delight needs to breathe and stay dry. Keep finished candies covered loosely with a lightweight cloth napkin or towel at room temperature. Or wrap loosely in lightweight paper and place in a small box that is tied with a silk ribbon (the color is up to you). Do not keep the candy in airtight containers, because the sugar content will start to melt and you’ll end up with wet candy. Lasts about a month or so. Makes 45 pieces.
*** You may experiment with other flavors; rose water, vanilla, almond, and mint are traditional. You may also try using a no-sugar-added fruit juice for the 1 cup water; apple is a nice alternative.
PS: I really mean it about following the directions precisely. Don’t let your sugar mixture sit around, or you will end up with what I like to think of as “meth” sugar, only gauging this by my viewing of Breaking Bad. This sugar could not be saved. Fortunately, most of this sugar stuff is easy to clean up with hot water.