Turkish Delight for Narnia Night
My adventure making Turkish Delight!
Several weeks ago, I read an article titled “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight.” Please do not be offended if you, like Edmund Pevensie in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” think that Turkish Delight is indeed the pinnacle when it comes to sweets. The point of the article is not that Turkish Delight is gross, but that, to palates used to chocolate in all forms, from cake to candy bars, as well as other over-the-top desserts, learning that Edmund sold his family for small gelatinous squares is a bit shocking.
After reading the article, I tried to remember what I thought Turkish Delight was when I first read “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” but all I could remember was the BBC miniseries version we grew up with, where the Turkish Delight floated down to Edmund in a hefty but beautifully decorated stone box (I think?), and inside were several drab cubes dusted in powdered sugar. So while Turkish Delight still seemed mysterious and exotic, I never imagined it was billowy, creamy or cloud-like.
Turkish Delight, according to this article, was invented in the late 1700s by Bekir Affendi, who opened a shop, Haci Bekir, that is still owned by his family today! And according to an article at Tor.com, C.S. Lewis likely chose Turkish Delight as Edmund’s “ultimate temptation” because of sugar rationing during World War II, the fact that shipping sweets from Turkey would make it even more unattainable, and its association with Christmas.
The “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction…” article made me wonder if I could make my own Turkish Delight. After a quick Google search, I found this recipe at thesplendidtable.org. And guess what? It didn’t look too hard!
To be honest, I don’t know how “authentic” this recipe is. According to this article, Turkish Delight is a long process that involves two hours of stovetop cooking. But it still turned out pretty delicious, in my opinion.
A Narnia-loving friend of mine had never seen the BBC version of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” so I invited her over to help me tackle Turkish Delight and for a movie night. If you haven’t seen it, either, this version came out in the late 1980s, I believe, and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are played by adults wearing animal costumes. It is amazing.
One final note: Joss “helped” with this recipe by “helping” me shell pistachios. First, he tried to eat them with the shells on, eventually spitting them out on the table. Then, he took my bowl of shells and added them to my bowl of unshelled nuts. Then, he kept trying to steal my shelled and chopped pistachios. It was a headache, but The Magic School Bus was playing in the background, so it was still a pleasant time.
Here is the recipe, modified from the one at The Splendid Table:
Turkish Delight Recipe
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 packets powdered gelatin (1oz/25g in total)
- 2/3 cup cornstarch (Divided. Measure out 2/3 c., then set aside 1/2 c. from that)
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons rosewater (I ordered this one from amazon.com)
- pink food-coloring paste*
- generous 1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (Buy shelled pistachios! I tried to save money by de-shelling them myself, and it was NOT WORTH IT!)
- In a small saucepan, add the granulated sugar, followed by the lemon juice and 1 1/4 c. of water. Cook, stirring, over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Slowly bring to a boil.
- Mix gelatin, 1/2 c. cornstarch and 3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp water. Add to saucepan and cook, stirring, until gelatin has dissolved. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, until thickened.**
- Mix remaining cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Oil an 8×8″ baking pan and line with plastic wrap. Sprinkle with part of the cornstarch/sugar mixture.
- Remove saucepan from heat. Let cool before adding the pistachios, food coloring and rosewater. Pour into pan and level it; let sit for 4 hours or until fully set. (Because I hate waiting and wanted to actually try the Turkish Delight during our movie night, I stuck it in the freezer for a little while, before refrigerating overnight.) When ready to eat, dust with remaining cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture, and cut into small squares. The cornstarch/powdered sugar will absorb into the treats, so I recommend doing this right before serving.
*As you may have noticed, my version is a garish orange color rather than a cheery pink. This is what happens when you use a decade-old bottle of pink food coloring!
**The original recipe did not specify that you should stir at this point, so we didn’t. I almost panicked when I checked on the mixture at the end of 20 minutes, though, because there was a large burnt spot at the bottom of the pan (see below). However, I poured the cooked mixture into a separate bowl to help it cool faster, and it was easy to keep the burnt part out. My pan is also clean and not ruined, so…maybe we should have just had the heat on a little lower.
Things to do with leftover Rosewater:
Rosewater Gin and Tonic
- rosewater, to taste (don’t go overboard!)
- juice from 1/4 of a lime
- 1 shot of gin
- tonic water
Add ingredients to a 6-8 oz. glass. Stir. Add an ice cube if desired.
- steamed milk
- simple syrup, to taste
- rosewater, to taste
I made mine using a stovetop espresso maker, a couple small spoonfuls of homemade simple syrup, and about a capful of rosewater. I was surprised by how much I liked it!