Making Turkish Delight


Turkish delight is an amazingly good confection that is technically challenging to make. There are several recipes on the web describing how to do it; most of them miss important points or are flat-out wrong. To produce this recipe, I did a lot of trial-and-error and some experiments Ė all in all I invested a total of nearly 13 hours and 20 lbs of sugar over the course of a several months. If you follow these directions youíll find itís relatively simple to make, but I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you should avoid altering the recipe until youíve made it at least once and gotten a feel for the various states that the candy goes through as youíre making it.

Briefly, turkish delight is a combination of two really cool materials: polymerized cornstarch and carmelized sugar. Producing either one of those is pretty easy, by itself, but to make turkish delight youíre producing them together, so that they are mixed into a silky, sweet, moist but chewy goo. Iíd love to find a materials scientist who can tell me more about whatís going on in this mixture, because itís clearly some interesting stuff. But if youíre not into material science, you can just eat it.

When you caramelize sugar, you melt it in water and then drive the water out by heating it so that the sugar undergoes all kinds of crazy chemical changes that result in formation of unsaturated polymers. With the corn starch, youíre melting it in water and heating it so that the molecule chains unravel and form a mesh that captures water molecules. To make turkish delight you partially caramelize/polymerize sugar then mix the wet corn starch matrix in, and boil it down until you drive enough moisture out that the whole mass locks together. The tricky parts of the process are mostly in keeping it from getting lumpy, keeping it from turning into a solid block of goo, keeping it from liquifying into a mass of runny syrup, or making a trip to the emergency room because you burned yourself with gooey syrup. Sugar syrup and corn starch polymer both hold heat pretty well Ė if you get this stuff on your hand it will stick and sit there while it transfers 200-degree heat to your skin. Avoid that.

Things you will need:

An assistant helps a great deal:

OK, I confess, I thought itíd be a bit easier to get people to read this recipe if I included some illustrations of the process. And Sarah looks better than I do; that way I was able to work the camera while she worked the recipe.



Making this recipe will consume between 1 and 1 Ĺ hours.

This is all the stuff laid out ready to go. The first time I make anything, I always lay everything out so I donít have to fumble around as I try to find it.

Greasing the Pans

Donít try to make this without silicone baking pans. I have personally thrown away 4 batches of turkish delight that stuck to my pans; itís like gooey epoxy. The only thing I have found it wonít stick to is lightly oiled silicone baking pans. Itíll even stick to dry silicone! Itíll stick to wax paper! Itíll stick to parchment paper!

I use square baking pans that are 9"x9" bought on for $6 apiece. Wipe them with a very very light coat of vegetable oil. All youíre trying to do is fill the microscopic pores in the silicone, you hardly need any oil at all. But you sure do need a bit.

Put the pans on the stove out of the way but in reach. When youíre ready to pour your goop out itíll be hot and you wonít want to carry it around the kitchen. Make sure the pans are on a flat surface or youíll get uneven-shaped turkish delight.

In this example we are going to make a 2-flavored batch. Normally, I make just one flavor and itís a lot easier. But itís nice to have lemon/clove and rose/pomegranate or something like that Ė different flavors make your end product more interesting.

Pans on stove with silicone pans and little bowls with flavoring mixes. Since we are making a 2-flavor batch, I have one flavoring mix near each of the silicone pans, to keep things organized.





Obviously, you can have fun with your flavorings. Iíve found that more than 2 tablespoons of water is a bad idea Ė youíre mixing it into the caramel/goo at the end and if you add too much water itíll separate out and youíll have sticky goo instead of turkish delight. If youíre making a 2-flavor batch, halve the quantities of flavorings that youíll put in each half-batch.

I donít think that oil-based flavorings work as well as sugary/extract/watery ones. Iíve used pure clove oil and it tended to promote clumps. Instead I prefer to make flavored tea(s) by just boiling herbs or spices in the microwave in a small bowl and draining off the results. You can buy flavoring extracts on Ė make sure you get food flavor not massage oil. There are lots of products that contain "rose petal" and you want the food flavoring not the skin cream. Trust me.

 Sugary Syrup:

Juice the lemon, then mix the lemon, the 4 cups of sugar, and 1 Ĺ cups of water in a saucepan. Turn on the heat and put the candy thermometer in. Stir it occasionally as it comes to a boil. Keep stirring and watch the temperature; when it reaches 230F (soft ball) youíll be ready to go to the next step.

(Syrup in pan coming to heat while cornstarch mixture sits)

While the sugar is boiling on its way to 230 degrees F, put the 1 cup of cornstarch and 3 cups of water in the other saucepan. Add the cream of tartar. Stir it gently. Initially, when mixed, the cornstarch will clump up into a weird goo. Be gentle when you stir it; cornstarch in water is a non-newtonian fluid and resists being stirred proportionally to how hard you stir it. Itíll take a bit of gentle work but you can turn the cornstarch/water mixture into an evenly-mixed milky liquid. There should be no clumps in it.

 Caramel and Cornstarch

This is the trickiest part of the whole process. Once the sugar hits 230 degrees F, turn it off, and turn your attention to the corn starch/water mix. Turn on medium heat and stir it constantly while you bring it up to a simmer. When the cornstarch starts to boil it will very quickly convert into a thick paste. You need to catch it right before it does that; pay attention to nothing else and stir the cornstarch while it heats. As soon as you feel it starting to get a bit sticky/thick on the bottom of the pan, lift up your spatula or spoon and if thereís goopy-looking gluey stuff on the bottom, youíre just about ready to take it off the heat. I usually turn the heat off and stir a bit more and suddenly itíll begin to thicken into a creamy glue. Do not let it overdevelop Ė as soon as it turns creamy, pour it into the sugar syrup and stir it in. If it turns into hard rubbery stuff your best bet is to dump it and make another batch of cornstarch really quickly.

(Creamy-looking cornstarch; the stuff keeps thickening as you scoop it out of the pan)

The cornstarch/syrup mix will initially be a bit white but as you blend them it should turn clear. Put the heat on and start to bring it back to a boil. Stir constantly and squish any blobs of cornstarch to get them completely mixed with the sugar syrup. If the cornstarch is too tough to mix in, you let it go too far and your turkish delight will be granular and have hard plastic-tasting bits in it.

(mixing the syrup and cornstarch over heat)

Boiling Down the Turkish Delight

Once the cornstarch/syrup mix have started to boil, keep stirring them. Youíll need to use a spatula periodically to keep it from collecting and hardening on the edge of the pan.

(Wait. This is a totally unnecessary picture. But, you get the point)

(Stir periodically)

After a while the syrup/goo will start to clear and get gooeyer. If you stir it vigorously, it may separate from the edge of the pan. Youíre going to stir the goo for about 40 minutes more or less, and the goo will begin to get slightly yellowish and thicker. You can test how thick itís getting by taking the spoon out and letting it cool a bit Ė it should solidify and get gooey.


(turning yellow)


If youíre making a single-flavor batch, simply turn off the heat, stir in the flavor ingredient thoroughly, and pour it in the silicone pan. Youíre done!

If youíre making a two-flavor batch, take another saucepan (or the cornstarch pan, rinsed) and put it on medium heat so the pan will get warm. If you pour the hot goop into a cold pan itíll congeal! Pour half of the mix into the pre-warmed pan, then add the flavoring and stir thoroughly. Pour off into the pans.

(mixing the pomegranate flavor in Ĺ of the goop)

(Mmmm! Goo!)

Let the goo cool overnight. Do not cover. If youíre a perfectionist (like I am!) you can dust the top of the pan-fuls of goo with powder mix while itís still damp Ė that way itíll stick. See the next step...

Cutting and Powdering

To finish the turkish delight the next day, youíre going to cut it up and put it in powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Take cornstarch (about 1 cup) and confectionerís powdered sugar (about 1 cup) and mix them together in a container. Youíre going to use this powder to keep the turkish delight from sticking to itself, the floor, your clothes, etc.

Make a flat surface of powder on a cutting board, then pull the goop out of the silicone tray and put it down on the powder. Flip it over as necessary and get both sides covered so they arenít sticky.

Get a flat-bladed knife like a cleaver or the insanely expensive sushi knife shown above, and powder its edges, then quickly press it through the turkish delight to cut it into strips. Cut fast with a pressure downward; donít try to draw-cut or itíll curl and stick to itself. Put the cut strips into the powder container so that the exposed fresh edges get powdered. Then line them up on the cutting board again and cross-cut them.

A small strainer is a good way to distribute powder without rubbing it; simply put some in the strainer and shake it gently over the turkish delight.

Then youíre done!

Storage and Packaging

Do not ever put turkish delight in an airtight container. Itíll release moisture and get sticky. My favorite way of storing it is in a little paper bag that I can shake periodically.

You can box it as long as you donít use an airtight box. This little box of turkish delight was filled with several layers, separated with sheets of parchment paper and powder. It was then wrapped and sealed with wax pressed with the butt end of a live .50 BMG SLAP round. Donít put live rounds into 400 degree wax!I survived but you might not!