Entry 32: Turkish Delightmare

Hello Koala fans!

When I first started this blog I knew that there would be things that would challenge me. Things that would appear to be simple but turn out otherwise. By and large though, I’ve never made anything completely inedible – even my old nemesis pastry has started improving. All that changed when I stumbled on this recipe in a TV magazine. The Koala and I are not the sort to give up easily, which may explain the heightened security on the chocolate biscuit tin:

Dad asks if anyone knows where his bolt cutters have disappeared to.

Dad asks if anyone knows where his bolt cutters have disappeared to.

However, after burning through almost 2 kilograms of sugar and other sundries, I’m finally admitting defeat.

It all started a couple of weeks ago. My niece had caught a cold and unfortunately it had spread to some of the other members of the family….

*cough cough*

*cough cough*

Now, given that I haven’t started my new job, I couldn’t afford to take the Koala to the local vet. Fortunately, our furry hero knew of a treatment for his sore throat – Turkish Delight. The traditional Arabic name for this sweet translates as “throat’s comfort” and it was originally marketed as such when it first arrived in Europe. I suspect that the use of rose water in the recipe also contributed to its medicinal reputation. Most modern commercial recipes use gelatin as the basis for the texture; I’m told that this is a traditional mixture. Although I got the recipe from a magazine, the exact same recipe is listed online:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/06/rose-pistachio-turkish-delight-recipe

I’d seen quite a few copies of this particular recipe – one on Youtube and one on bbcgoodfood. Each one had its own slight variations on how to prepare the mixture, which I should have taken as a red flag. The photos below are taken from Attempt One, with an exception:

There's almost a koala and half of sugar in this recipe....

There’s almost a koala and half of sugar in this recipe…

I was quite nervous about making this, because it involves preparing sugar at extremely high temperatures – about 120*C. It’s one thing to pop a cake in a pre-heated oven, after which everything goes on nice and safely in a big metal box. It’s quite another to have sugar boiling and frothing in a saucepan mere inches away from your hands. To make matters even worse, this recipe required *two* pots of boiling hot liquid – but we’ll come to that in a moment. The sugar syrup took about 15 minutes or so to reach the temperature needed, according to the method.

Given some of the other places he could have inserted the thermometer, I shouldn't complain too much.

Given some of the other places he could have inserted the thermometer, I shouldn’t complain too much.

The sugar was mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a small amount of water. I found that the best way to bring it up to temperature was in stages; slowly turning the heat up once the thermometer had stopped rising.

While I was rushing around with timings and temperatures, the Koala was just sitting there like a lemon.

While I was rushing around with timings and temperatures, the Koala was just sitting there like a lemon.

Having mixed the water, sugar and lemon juice together, it was time to put the pan on the hob….

"Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron simmer for 15 minutes."

“Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron simmer for 15 minutes.”

I think it was here I made my first mistake, although I’m not entirely to blame. The thermometer I got was a very cheap one and it wasn’t until much later that I noticed it had slid out of the metal frame holding it. As a consequence, I don’t think the sugar mixture got hot enough. On later attempts, I could tell when it was ready because the mixture got harder to stir and had a very pale hint of gold to it.  While the Koala diced with a hot fiery death on the saucepan, I started mixing the other half of the recipe – the cornflour, water and cream of tartar. Now this stuff behaved very strangely. When the cornflour first goes in to the cold water and its mixed together, it almost looks like milk. After just a few minutes on the hob, it turns into this weird opaque blob.

If only Steve McQueen had thought of using an electric whisk....

If only Steve McQueen had thought of using an electric whisk….

After mixing the syrup and blob monster together, the recipe states “leave it, plopping and sighing, for an hour.” So I turned the heat right down and left it to do just that. After about 15 minutes though, I could see little golden strands of sugar bubbling up. After another 15 minutes of indecisiveness, I gave the mixture a little prod and my doubts were confirmed; the bottom half of the Turkish Delight was burned. After scraping away the top layer, it took about 45 minutes and a belt sander to clean the bottom of the pot. -.-

I still had the key ingredient – the rose water – untouched, so I decided to give the recipe another try. This time was slightly more successful:

"Well, it looks like we're two thirds of the way there..."

“Well, it looks like we’re two thirds of the way there…”

This batch certainly looked the part and the rose flavouring smelled fantastic. After a day in the fridge, I took it out and started to divide it up:

"Yay! I found my bow again!"

“Yay! I found my bow again!”

Each piece was rolled in the icing sugar and cornflour mixture. As I was doing so, I noticed that it wasn’t holding together too well, even after all that time in the fridge. I tried a piece….and it was awful. The flavour was there but the texture was most definitely not. It had none of the firmness of store-bought Turkish Delight and there were small pieces of hardened crystallised sugar in there as well. I eventually ended up having to throw the whole lot out.

My final attempt was about an hour ago, just before writing this up. I’d watched a couple of Youtube videos, using the same recipe again, carefully following the exact same methods used….and the cornflour started to bind together without mixing. It was like the Blob had contracted an unfortunate case of icebergs.

I’d set out to cure a sore throat but ended up with a massive headache instead. Let’s hope our next venture is more successful. -.-

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