The Haci Bekir sweet shop in Istanbul has been selling Turkish delight — known as lokum in Turkish — since 1777, when the shop’s founder invented the sweet treat. If you can’t make it to Istanbul to pick up their version, you can try it yourself at home and impress your holiday guests with Turkey’s favorite candy. You may want a second set of hands to help you with this challenging, but worthwhile recipe. Make sure to follow each step carefully to ensure that your Turkish delight sets up correctly.
4 cups granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 tablespoons rose water or orange flower water
2 drops red or orange food coloring (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
Line a 9 by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the sugar, 1-1/2 cups of water and the lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. With a wet pastry brush, brush down the sides of the pan to discourage crystallization and insert a candy thermometer to track the temperature. Allow the sugar to continue boiling, but do not stir, until it reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, which will take up to an hour. Meanwhile, gather the rest of the ingredients and when the sugar reaches about 225, start cooking the other components. Combine the remaining 3 cups of water with the cornstarch and cream of tartar in a larger saucepan and whisk until the starch dissolves and no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil while whisking constantly — the mixture will become thick and paste-like.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240, remove from heat and immediately start to slowly and carefully pour it into the cornstarch mixture while whisking to incorporate. Slow whisking will help you avoid lumps.
Reduce heat and simmer on low for about an hour, whisking every 8 to 10 minutes until the candy turns a light golden color and the consistency is thick and gluey. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rose water or orange flower water and the food coloring. Pour the candy into the prepared pan and leave it uncovered to set overnight.
The next day, dust a clean counter or cutting board with powdered sugar, then lift the candy from the pan using the foil to help you. Flip it facedown into the powdered, sugar, then peel the foil away and dust with more sugar. Slice the candy into small squares with an oiled knife and dust the sides of each square with additional powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Eat as soon as possible. Store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.