Turkish delight – Oriental coffee snack (+recipe)

Turkish delight is presumably the only thing that connects Turkey and Narnia. This coffee snack is known to the western world from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Aah, you remember it now. The White Witch used Turkish delight to entice Edmund. Few kilos of it, to be precise. We don’t support that kind of behaviour, Edmond. But we understand. Especially when you consider that movie rose sale rates of Turkish delight in England by 20%!


Turkish delight is one of the best coffee snacks you can have with your morning coffee and a glass of water. However, its history is much older and much more complicated than appearing in books/movies for children. As always, your Estonia Coffee team is here to tell you all about it.

What is Turkish delight?

Turkish delight or lokum is a part of traditional Middle East cuisine. It looks like a small cube made from jello and sprinkled with icing sugar. 

The flavours may vary, from traditional rosewater to orange, cinnamon and others. The same goes for the filling, from traditional pistachios to walnuts, hazelnuts or any other choice.

Top-quality Turkish delight has to be sweet but not too sweet. Also, it needs to be soft and chewy but never stick to the teeth. Tender and flexible, but not gummy. It’s all about the balance. And balance is hard to achieve. 

Turkish delight is a traditional present. For centuries, Middle Eastern people gifted this sweet wrapped in handkerchiefs. But more important, it’s a significant part of serving traditional Turkish coffee. As Turkish coffee is bitter, the sweetness of candy made a perfect contrast, especially for the ladies.

Also, this Turkish snack is very affordable due to its simple ingredients. So the poorest parts of society could enjoy it, too. Something like our precious Italian coffee cake.

Turkish delight as a part of Turkish and Bosnian coffee tradition
Turkish delight as a part of Turkish and Bosnian coffee tradition.

Rules and regulations

The Turks have strict rules on what Turkish delight is, how should it taste, and what can or can’t it contain. So we have:

  • Lokum with Afyon kaymak (clotted cream).
  • Sultan lokum – Ingredients include Soapwort plant (Saponaria).
  • Sausage (sucuk) type of lokum – Dried fruits and nuts are dipped in hot syrup-cornstarch mix. The final result is sausage-shaped lokum.
  • Plain lokum – Basic taste, without aromas, spices, fruits or nuts. Just the lokum mix. 
  • Lokum with geographic indication – Example: Safranbolu lokum from the Safranbolu region (north of Turkey).

Turks love their lokum. Just look at article 5 of their TURKISH FOOD CODEX DELIGHT COMMUNICATION:

a) In terms of sensory; The characteristics of Turkish delight and Turkish delight varieties are as follows:

1) Turkish delight has a unique taste and smell of the type specified in its definition and does not contain foreign taste and odour. It can’t taste like raw starch.

2) Turkish delight has an elastic structure and its texture feels soft and slippery in the mouth.

3) No foreign substance can be found on or in Turkish delight.

4) Any other substance not specified in the product description cannot be added to Turkish delight, which would spoil its traditional product feature.

b) The chemical properties of Turkish delights defined in Article 4 are in accordance with the table in Annex-1.

c) The amounts of dried, dried or hard-shelled fruits that can be added to the flavoured Turkish delight within the scope of this Communiqué are in accordance with the table in Annex-2.

ç) In case of using seasonings and flavouring and flavouring food components in the same product in Turkish delight production, the amount of dried, dried or hard-shelled fruits shall comply with the table in Annex-2.

d) The amount of cream added to Turkish delight with cream within the scope of this Communiqué is in accordance with the table in Annex-3.

TURKISH FOOD CODEX DELIGHT COMMUNICATIO

The history of Turkish delight

Turkish delight is called lokum or Rahat ul hukum in the Turkish language. The literal meaning is a relief for the throat. The basic versions of this dessert were known for centuries in Asia. Early confectioners used honey, grape molasse (or pekmez), and flour mixture to make sweet little bites. Tim Richardson, a historian of sweets (best job ever!) found proofs of gummy and syrupy sweats being made even in the 9th century. 

The main myth about creating the first lokum goes way back in history. An unknown Turkish sultan was facing issues with dissatisfaction and disorder in his harem. So, he gathered all the pastry chefs and ordered them to invent the dessert for pleasing his numerous women. And they did.

The 15th century is considered the era Turkish delight became popular in the Middle East. 

In 1777, mass production of Turkish delight started in the Ottoman empire. Not just for residents, but for ongoing travellers and tourists that just couldn’t get enough of this sweet. And we have one man to thank for.

Haci Bekir – father of modern Turkish delight

Confectioner, inventor and visionary. Haci Bekir opened his first lokum shop in Istanbul in 1777. His business grew steadily, but in the 19th century, a game-changer appeared. Cornstarch. Haci Bekir upgraded his original lokum recipe, replacing flour with cornstarch. The new version of the sweet was lighter, chewier and just – better. Thus, a modern Turkish delight was born. 

Haci Bekir became a chief confectioner in the sultan’s palace, and that’s the honourable position his family held till the end of the Ottoman Empire (1920). 

Haci Bekir company is still alive. It is one of the world’s oldest companies, and it still produces unmatchable lokum. For the past 50 years, women are in charge of the company, which raised some eyebrows in the traditional Turkish community.

Nowadays, they have five shops in Istanbul, where you can try a variety of tastes. Traditional rosewater and walnut flavours, or modern – mint, cinnamon, pomegranate or chocolate flavours are waiting for you. Of course, the company also ships its products worldwide

Turkish delight - a souvenir from my winter vacation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Turkish delight – a souvenir from my winter vacation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Do Turks call Turkish delight just “delight”?

The term Turkish delight was invented in the 18th century. An unknown British tourist (and a sweet tooth) brought a few pounds of this sweet little snack back to Britain. Allegedly, he kinda forgot what the original name of the snack was, so he simply called it – Turkish delight. It was an immediate success in Great Britain, where it retained its popularity. It never caught up in the USA, tho.

Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted it before

Clive Staples Lewis describes Turkish delight in his books

How to make Turkish delight at home?

Of course, all great recipes are simple. The four basic ingredients for perfect lokum are:

  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Citric acid
  • Aroma

But as always, the devil is in the details. You can’t just grab 4 cups of every ingredient and get a perfect lokum. So, let’s go for a more complicated recipe for home use. 

Turkish delight – simple home recipe

We found (and tried) a simple yet perfect recipe to make Turkish delight at home. You will need:

  • White sugar – 1 kilo 
  • Powdered sugar – 150 grams
  • Water – 1.5 litre
  • Cornstarch – 200 grams
  • Walnuts – 150 grams, coarsely chopped
  • Orange extract – Few drops
  • Almond oil – One tablespoon
  • Half a lemon – Sliced
  • Freshly squeezed juice from one half of lemon

Step by step

  1. Mix together white sugar and one litre of water to get a thick syrup. Add lemon slices. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 – 40 minutes. When it’s done, remove it from the heat source and let it cool a little. Remove the lemon slices.
  2. Take another bowl. Mix cornstarch with half a litre of clean, cold water. Whisk it good, and be careful not to leave any lumps. 
  3. Add the cornstarch mix to the syrup. Mix all the time. Put the bowl back on the heat source, on a gentle heat. Mix thoroughly until the mixture starts separating from the stirring spoon. Remove from the heat source.
  4. Mix in the chopped walnuts. Of course, you can put hazelnuts, almonds, dates or some other filling you prefer. But this original recipe was for the walnuts. 
  5. Add a few drops of orange extract to the mix. Follow it with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir well.
  6. Take a square pan, pot, or bowl as a mould. The mixture should be at least 4 cm thick. Spread one tablespoon of almond oil into your preferred mould. Pour the mixture inside. 
  7. Let the mixture rest for at least 24 hours in a cold place. Not the fridge! We don’t want it to catch any fridge odours.
  8. When the mixture is stiffened, chop it into dice. Roll those dices into powdered sugar. Enjoy it with a cup of good coffee!

How did Turkish delight end up in Narnia?

The import of Turkish delight to England began in 1861. It even had a catchier name – Lumps of delight. Needless to say, it was an instant success. But how did the lokum end up in Narnia? And did Edmund really sell his brothers and sisters for a few kilos of it?

Clive Staples Lewis started writing his most famous book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1939. The book was finalised in 1950. And in between – Second World War. So, Clive had a first-hand experience with food rationing in wartime. July 26, 1942, was the day when confectionery was put on the list of things you needed coupons to buy. Along with money, of course. The sweets became almost impossible to obtain in the UK.

So, we get it now. Edmund wanted what Clive wanted: pounds and pounds of candy, impossible to obtain in the real world. But in the world of magic, everything is possible.

Turkish delight - or how to betray your family for candies
Turkish delight – or how to betray your family for candies

What are different names for lokum around the world?

Balkan states – Rahat lokum, ratluk, lokum

Brazil – Delicia Turca, Manjar Turco, Bala de Goma Siria, Bala de Goma Arabe

Estonia – Türgi rõõm

France – Lokoum

Germany – Türkischer Honig

Greece – Loukomi

Middle East – Lokum

English-speaking countries – Turkish delight

Conclusion

After centuries and centuries, lokum stays one of the main coffee snack choices, especially for Oriental and Balkan coffee lovers. If you want to enjoy the full taste of this lovely snack, go for the original one. Only lokum from Turkey will have that incredible taste. European confectioners have never been able to reproduce the rich aroma and texture that traditional Turkish delight has. 

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