This friends, is what I call a “culinary adventure” -ripe with nostalgia and passion, failure and triumph, gummy things and sugar, and enough science to shake a stick at. Shake two sticks at. Really, a multitude of sticks.
What does that phrase even mean? For some reason I’m thinking it has something to do with snakes. oh well. To the gummies!!
Turkish Delight is a confection from the Ottoman Empire made popular in England by travelers and has had a modern surge in popularity due to a fantastic cameo appearance in C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” I devised my recipe to incorporate flavors that I loved from my own travels in the Middle East and to utilize fresh ingredients that grow in my Louisiana back yard. When I was traveling one of my favorite flavor combinations that I encountered was lemon and mint. The most notable was a sweet, minty lemonade kind of drink. Citrus grows very well here in Southern Louisiana, and we have a big Meyer Lemon tree. Meyer lemons are a hybrid type of lemon-meets-orange, making them sweeter and milder than a standard lemon. We also have an abundance of mint!
A Note on Candy Making
Turkish Delight is a gummy candy. Think gum drops. Candy making is major science. I mean, all cooking is science, but this is like SCIENCE kind of science. (now “science” sounds weird in my head…) In this particular adventure I learned a lot about chemistry and got to look up words like “heteropolysacharides,” which I still don’t understand. Instead of confusing you with all that I will direct you to another blog post about Turkish Delight that I stumbled upon conveniently after I did all my mistakes, er… “research.” Candy making is precise and can be tricky, but you can do it! I promise! I will give you the keys! Unlock all the gummy goodness!
A Note on Recipes:
In doing a general search for Turkish Delight recipes I found two major kinds on the interwebs: 1- Uses just cornstarch and very long cooking time, 2- uses cornstarch and gelatin with a shorter cooking time. The longer version is the more traditional version and much closer to the ancient recipe. The shorter version is more modern but can be more conducive to candy making problems. The one I experimented with is the second version, and therefore I can explain how to avoid some of those problems. However, in the future I myself will use the longer version (no gelatin, more cornstarch, longer cooking time), along with the tips in this post, to make a more stable candy. My recipe was adopted from allrecipes. I will also make half-batches, because this makes a lot of gummies.
- Cooking Thermometer: this is a must! You should be able to see the 240F mark clearly
- Sauce pan
- Mixing bowls
- Cooling Pan
- Wire Mesh Sifter (for the powdered sugar)
- Clean counter top to work with candy
- 3/4 cup Cornstarch
- 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 3 cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 cup Meyer Lemon juice, divided and strained of seeds
- 3 tablespoons Meyer Zest
- 3 (.25 ounce) Envelopes Unflavored Gelatin
- 1 cup Water
- Mint Leaves
- 3 tablespoons Steen’s Syrup (or light corn syrup)
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 3/4 cup Chopped Pistachio Nuts
- Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting
The Set Up:
The first thing to do is to set up your ingredients so that you are ready to toss them all together in the cooking process. This is part where you get to be your own Sous Chef. Yay!
In small bowl: Combine cornstarch and cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is an acid and it acts to even out the texture of the gummies and it stabilizes the way that cornstarch thickens. Slowly add in the 1/2 cup cold water to dissolve cornstarch. This will sit a while before you use it- just make sure to run a whisk through the mixture before use. This will loosen it up after it settles, it may be hard but it will smooth out.
In medium bowl: Measure out the three cups of granulated sugar
In medium bowl: dissolve gelatin in 1/2 cup lemon juice and add zest. Let sit to the side.
On chopping board: chop the pistachios. This is a traditional ingredient and adds a great texture to the candy.
In saucepan: boil water with mint leaves to extract the oils and flavor. This takes just a few moments- after boiling measure flavored water and add extra to measure up to one cup. Add the other 1/2 cup of lemon juice and Steen’s syrup and put back on heat
1: In the saucepan there should already be 1 1/2 cups of liquid and the Steen’s Syrup. Add to this the granulated sugar and bring to a boil. Use the cooking thermometer to monitor the heat and bring the mixture up to 240F- this is the temperature of “soft-ball” candy.
2: Have the cornstarch, tartar, and water mixture on the ready when the temperature gets close. Make sure the mix is smooth by whisking it right before use.
3: When the syrup reaches 240F (this will take a bit of time), add the cornstarch mixture and whisk so that no clumps form.
4: Heat the new mixture until it reaches a thick, gluey consistency- this will not take long at all. Heat makes the starch thicken (starch gelatinization).
5: Bring off heat and add the cooled gelatin and lemon mixture. This will have become stiff by now, just scoop out and whisk into hot mixture- it will break down and even out.
6: Add in the pistachios and vanilla extract and pour out onto a greased/powdered pan. Put in a cool dry place overnight, up to 2 days for curing. DO NOT PUT IN THE REFRIGERATOR. The candy needs to cool slowly and evenly. The candy also needs to dry out and expel moisture evenly- neither of these can happen in the refrigerator. Rapid temperature changes will cause sweating- leading to goo, which is discussed later.
First: Cut the candy out of the pan. This can be difficult at first- but use a spatula. Cut the candy into squares.
Second: roll and dust the squares in a mixture of cornstarch and powdered sugar. Set the squares on paper towels on the counter to cure for several hours. DO NOT SEAL. Sealing will trap in heat and moisture causing the candy to sweat. The candy needs to dry out for about another day and then it can be stored or gifted in paper boxes/bags.
Sweating or THE GOO
This is the section where I try and give you some tips on preventing candy sweating. This is when the gel (formed by cornstarch alone or the combination of cornstarch and gelatin) of the candy pushes excess water out of itself. This moisture will combine with the sugar coating and make a lovely goo mess of epic proportions. When I made my candy I did several things that contributed a great big gooey mess. One of my biggest problems is that living in Southern Louisiana my house is high on both heat and humidity, but nonetheless, I was able to fix the goo and make the candy awesome.
Follow these tips to prevent goo:
- Make candy at least humid time of day, and let it rest in a low-humidity area of your house.
- Do not refrigerate to set. Let pan set at room-temp in a dry place.
- Let candy cure both in the pan and in the coating stage.
- Do not store in air-tight container. Store in paper.
If you do get goo:
- Take the candy out of the container and place on paper towels. You might have to “wipe” it off to get all the excess moisture off.
- Do a coating with just cornstarch and let dry out for several hours/overnight.
- When dry an firm to the touch, dust with a little bit of sugar and place back in paper.