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History of Turkish Delight

History of Turkish Delight

History of Turkish Delight

Watercolor painting of Haci Bekir working at his shop, by Maltese artist Preziosi.
Turkish Delight, traditionally known as Lokum, is a confectionary treat that originated in Turkey and spread across the globe. The gummy, sugarcoated candy was invented in 1777 by famous confectioner Bekir Effendi (known as Haci Bekir after the Muslim hajj pilgrimage). Haci Bekir owned a candy shop in the Bahcekapi district of Istanbul. Amazingly Haci Bekir’s shop is still open today in the exact same location. Run by his descendents, Haci Bekir Confectioners is in its fifth generation. It is the oldest company in Turkey to operate from its original location. It now has representative companies in England, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, France and America. The company sells Lokum in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, orange, lemon, clotted cream, rose, cinnamon, bergamot, pineapple, honey and mint flavors.

Haci Bekir’s descendants believe the first recipe for Lokum was based on an Anatolian sweetmeat traditionally made using honey or grape molasses (pekmez) as sweeteners and flour and water as a binding agent. By using sugar, which was newly available in Turkey, and cornflour (cornstarch), Haci Bekir transformed the sweetmeat into Lokum. The ingredients are melted together, boiled, then poured in a pan and allowed to cool. Lokum has a soft, gelatin-like texture, often with chopped nuts inside, and is its flavoring is very subtle. It is cut into bite-sized cubes and covered with confectioners’ sugar. Through the years the original recipe for Lokum has changed very little.

Lokum became extremely popular among Turks and soon Haci Bekir was appointed chief confectioner for the Ottoman Court and awarded a medal of honor by the Sultan. The chief confectioner title remained in Haci Bekir’s family for generations to come. Ottoman Sultans enjoyed Lokum after meals to counteract the bitter taste of Turkish coffee. Janissaries gave Lokum to the to highly ranked court officials as a sign of loyalty to the saltan.

During Seker Bayrami ("Candy Holiday"), which is a three day holiday following the month of Ramazan, Lokum is always in high demand. Lokum is also served on the 40th and 52nd day after a person’s death and on the anniversary of a funeral in a ceremony called mevlit. This religious gathering is either held at a home or a mosque.

Lokum was soon discovered by an unknown English traveler who deemed the candy as “Turkish Delight” and introduced it to Europe. The name stuck, and in many countries around the world, Lokum is known as Turkish Delight. In France and the Balkan countries, Lokum was known as "Lokoum." Lokum, called Turkish Delight, plays an interesting role in CS Lewis’ novel The Chronicles of Narnia and its Hollywood counterpart The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was released in 2005. The film in particular introduced Americans to the age old Turkish candy. The White Witch of Narnia tempts young Edmund to bring his siblings to the ice castle with Turkish Delight. The irresistible temptation peeked the interest of many American viewers, and Turkish Delight sales hit a sudden high. The owner of the Turkish Taste company in Greenland reported that his sales increased by 400% after the release of the film.

Lokum has travelled from a small candy factory in Turkey to countries all around the world. Whether imported or made at home, the unique treat has left an impact that stretches far beyond its founding country.


Lokum (Turkish Delight) Recipes

Traditional Lokum (Turkish Delight) Recipe from RecipeSource

*Cooking time: 1 ½ hrs., makes about 2 lbs.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cup cornstarch (cornflour)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoons rosewater (may be doubled)
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted almonds (may be omitted)
  • red food coloring


Instructions:

1.) Combine 1 ½ cups water, sugar and lemon juice in a thick-based pan on low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Brush sugar crystals from the side of pan with a bristle brush dipped in cold water.
2.) Boil mixture until it reaches its "soft ball" stage, 240 °F on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat.
3.) Blend 1 cup cornstarch, cream of tartar and 1 cup cold water in thick-based pan until smooth. Boil remaining 2 cups of water and add to cornstarch mixture. Simmer on low heat, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles and thickens.
4.) Slowly combine the two mixtures, stirring constantly. Boil gently for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will become a pale golden color.
5.) Stir in rose water to taste and a few drops of red food coloring to make it pink. Blend in almonds, and remove from heat.
6.) Pour into a greased 9-inch square pan and allow to set for 12 hours.
7.) Mix confectioners' sugar with ¼ cup cornstarch and pour on a flat surface. Cut Turkish Delight into squares with a greased knife and roll each piece in the sugar mixture. Sprinkle remaining mixture over each layer of Turkish Delight. Store in a sealed container.

Variations:

Orange Lokum
Replace rose water and red food coloring with 1-2 tablespoons orange flower water and orange food coloring.
Vanilla Lokum
Replace rose water and red food coloring with 2 teaspoons vanilla essence.
Crème de Menthe Lokum
Replace rose water and red food coloring with 2 tablespoons Crème de Menthe liqueur and green food coloring. Omit almonds.



Modern Turkish Delight Recipe from RecipeZaar

*Cooking time: about 1 hour, several hours to cool

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of flavored extract (orange, lemon, raspberry, vanilla, etc.)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts (may be omitted)
  • food coloring


Instructions:

1.) Soften the gelatin in cold water.
2.) Add sugar to pot of boiling water and continue to boil.
3.) Stir softened gelatin in boiling water and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
4.) Stir in flavored extract and a few drops of food coloring.
5.) Pour mixture into a greased, 8-inch square pan.
6.) Gently stir in pistachios and chill.
7.) Invert Turkish Delight onto cutting board, and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes.
8.) Roll each cube in confectioners' sugar, and store in a sealed container at room temperature.


References

"Haci Bekir History" Haci Bekir A.Ş.

"The Sweetest Traditions: Turkish Candy" TAiK (Turkish - U.S. Business Council) 2004.

"Tastes worth travelling for" THE INDEPENDENT 2005.

"Turkish delight has been around for more than 200 years" Turkish Daily News 2002.

"Turkish Delight Sales Jump After Narnia Chronicles" nh Public Radio 2006.