Are you a fan of Turkish Delight? Well that would be fully understandable as it is indeed a culinary delight. But many people eat a mass-produced version of this exotic sweet treat. Perhaps a chocolate bar with some insipid red jelly inside or a powdery marshmallow-type affair. These processed foods may be fairly addictive, but they are as far from authentic Turkish Delight as they could be. So, what is real Turkish Delight?
The Oldest Sweet in the World?
Culinary historians have recorded that Locum or Turkish Delight dates back at least half a millennium. And the true recipe for this ancient sweet favorite has changed little over the long years. There is a commonly believed story that is was the confectionery chefs of a disgruntled Sultan that concocted this unique dessert to keep all his harem happy. Whether this is just another Arabian tale will remain a mystery, but it could be seen that this yummy treat would keep many people contented.
The history books refer to a legendary character called Bekir Efendi who was almost solely responsible for introducing Turkish Delight to Istanbul in 1777. Hailing from Anatolia he brought his recipe into the capital and opened up a small confectionery shop in the center of the city. His new delight won over many fans that had a sweet tooth and soon it was called Lokum. Not only was his great new sweet loved by the people of Istanbul his innovative new product became an ideal gift to give. Efendi not only being a great confectioner knew how to market his product well. He elevated the new Turkish Delight to a prestige confectionery and packaged it in special lace handkerchiefs that were delightful and elegant on their own.
Soon a new trend hit Istanbul and again it involved the innovate sweet treat. When a man wished to court a lady the perfect gift to bring to the first date was Locum sprinkled with scented rose water. As Efendi’s fame spread it was not long until the Ottoman Court started to take notice of his success. And he was given the highly prestigious title of the Royal Confectioner.
Turkish Delight Goes West
The sweet confectionery at the time was commonly called Locum, and when a British traveler first tasted it in the early 19th Century he decided that he would take this Turkish Delight back to London where the name stuck to it like the proverbial jelly it is made from. The simple recipe of Turkish Delight has changed little over the years, primarily it is a starch milk mixture that is combined with a sugar syrup. It is the fillings and adornments that make Turkish Delight so evocative of the mysterious east. Popular fillings include mint, coffee, hazelnut, and pistachio. Then the whole treat is dusted with icing and cut up into the familiar squares that are so common today. Bekir Efendi became so famous that there is even a portrait that hangs in the Louvre of him.