*drum roll* Turkish Delight, episode 3
Yes, I’m still on this. No, I have not given up Turkish Delight forever. Third time’s the charm, right?
So, the other day I’m searching our recipe book cupboard for apple muffins or something—well, not for apple muffins, for a recipe for apple muffins—and I happen to see that old recipe for Turkish Delight. The thrill of adventure suddenly stirs way down deep inside me. Besides, I’d promised you all I’d try it again and it’d work, right? I can’t be going back on my promises, now. Besides (again) (and this is the big one), I had found gelatin. Real gelatin. Ooh, it’d work this time. I could feel it. I pulled the crinkly page out and read over it. If I was going to make it I’d need an orange and a lemon. “Mom? I need to go to Wadsworth tonight. I have stuff in at the library, and I need an orange and a lemon for my Turkish Delight.”
We went to Wadsworth. And I got two lemons and four oranges. Hey, the lemons were two for $1.00, and I knew we’d eat ‘em. And the oranges were special Italian oranges (or maybe they were Spanish…). Well, anyway, they were known for their sweetness and highly nutritious Vitamin C content. (I hadn’t known them at all, but apparently I’m out of the loop.) And they were four for $3.00, so it was one of those un-pass-up-able great deals.
To make a long story short (against tradition), it didn’t work. I didn’t try to stir the gelatin in this time, I just let it sit and “soak” on the top of the mixture. It gelled a little better than my last attempt but it was still more like old honey than anything. Old orange-flavored honey. With a hint of plastic. Must’ve been the gelatin that did that… Anyway the point is, it didn’t work. I was so aggravated I was sick of the very word (er, words) ‘Turkish Delight’ all over again. But that didn’t last long. Before I went to bed I was determined to figure out what on earth ailed the stuff, because I knew I wasn’t just doing it wrong. I got on the computer and searched “Turkish Delight recipe”. And found several. And every single one of them had cornstarch as a part of the mixture. Remember that mysteriously disappearing half of the water? Well, supposedly it was to be mixed with the cornstarch, and slowly added to the pot as it was boiling. Hm, wonder if that would’ve helped it gell… It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Anyway, I won. I had proved that there was something wrong with the recipe and that it wasn’t just my unskillfulness in experiments. *nods* So, what do I do? I find a new recipe. I picked the one that sounded most straightforward, and printed it off. Come Monday (we had a busy weekend), I was going to make Turkish Delight. And it was going to work.
So. Today’s the day. The sun is shining, the tank is clean, and we are getting out of—the tank is clean! Actually the tank—er, kitchen, I mean—was NOT clean. It was a pigsty (so to speak). The island was cluttered with everything from butter knives and banana ends to an insert with instructions on how to work some little toy thing from a MacDonald’s happy meal my brother got last night on our way home from bringing my sister back to Franciscan University. I did one of those whirlwind, whip-through straightenings so I at least had a clean space to work with, and I began.
I had a faint notion that this whole thing had evolved from a compulsion to save the day into an inescapable sort of war. And surrender was not an option. I had lost the battle, but I wasn’t going to stay defeated. So I donned my armor—a darling little blue gingham apron—and the fight was on.
First things first. Chop the nuts. I decided I wanted to add nuts this time. The recipe said I could. (I love my new recipe!) I take a bag of almonds out of the snack drawer, and dump a handful into the food processor. I put the blade in—or try to. Shucks. I always do that… I take the nuts back out, put the blade in, and dump the nuts back in. Ok. Here we go. I switch the thing to “on” and jump three feet of the ground. You would have too if you heard the noise it mad. Like a rabid saw blade coming to devour you. Or something like that. Scary, in any case.
Combine sugar… With the nuts finally chopped, I can begin the recipe. I measure out the sugar. 1/2 c. once…1/2 c. twice (I couldn’t find the 1 cup)…1/2 c. thrice…1/2 c. frice (er, four times). And the sugar runs out right about 3/4 of the way into my fourth 1/2 c. Drat. What to do? What to do? I wasn’t going to let 1/4 of 1/2 c. of sugar outsmart me… Aha! The sugar bowl. There’s always sugar in the sugar bowl. I lift the lid, and…there’s no sugar. You have got to be kidding me! But, wait—there’s another sugar bowl. The nice china one Mom took out for tea the other night. I lift the lid, and…find the sugar. Thanks, God. I fill the rest of my fourth 1/2 c. and dump it into the pot.
…1 c. water… Water. I grab a measuring cup out of the drain board and go to the water cooler. A little trickle comes out. There’s no water. Oh, great. Now what? I open the back door, hoping against hope to find another 5 gallon jug on the back step. Nope. None. I run to the stove and check the teakettle. Nope. None. I look into the fridge as a last resort; maybe somebody filled a pitcher or something. Nope. None. Botheration. “Mom? There’s no water. Do you think I could use the sink?” No. She doesn’t. There’s so many chemicals in out well water it might do something weird. Good heavens, if there’s aay possibility that it’d ruin my precious Turkish Delight I’m not going to try it… But that leaves me hanging. What to do? Get in the car and go to the corner store and get water. But, wait! The car. There’s water bottles in the car. Or there were, last night. Maybe we didn’t drink them all! Maybe there’s one left!! I race outside, pull open the driver’s side door, climb over the seat, and look into the back seat. My coat. I pull my coat up, and—oh! be joyful—there it is! A water bottle. Thanks, God. I grab it and climb back out of the van. In the kitchen, I hang my coat up quickly, and get back to the island. I open the water bottle and pour 1 c. into the measuring cup. Good. There’s some left over. I’ll need the 1/2 c. later. I pour the water into the middle of the sugar, and it erupts into bubbles and squeaks as the two combine themselves. Once it settles down, it looks like a little bit of ocean—with really white sand at the bottom, and really clear still water over top.
…cream of tartar… Whatever this stuff is, I guess it’s important. I measure out the 1/2 tsp and add it to the ocean.
…and flavoring(s) in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Flavorings? That’d be the almond extract. I wanted to use vanilla, but we didn’t have vanilla. Almond would do; almond extract is yummy. I measure out two teaspoons, and pour it in. The recipe says 1 tbs for vanilla extract, or orange extract, or creme be menthe liqueur, but I figure almond extract’s really strong; I don’t want to over-do it. So I put the pot on the stove and turn it on.
In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch with remaining water, mix completely… Ok. At least there’s no mysteriously-disappearing water, here. I can understand this. I pour the 1/2 c. of water into a plastic bowl (hey, we don’t have wooden bowls), and add 1/2 c. of arrowroot powder. Yeah, I know, it’s taking a risk; but we don’t have cornstarch. And Mom assured me it works the same way. I leave the bowl for a second to consult the recipe as to whether I’m supposed to mix it now, or later when I add it to the pot. Now. Ok. Going back, I’m terrified to find it a hard clump of whiteness, with a film of water over top of it. Yikes. What to do? I stick the spoon in, and voila the “hard clump of whiteness” melts away like magic. Weird. After a few more seconds of stirring, I have a milky liquid. Weirder.
…and slowly stir into sugar mixture. I tip the bowl up over the pot, and let it pour in while I “slowly stir” (with my good old wooden spoon). :) The two mixtures don’t seem to like each other; they hiss and sputter, and the colors clash. Don’t ask me how. They were both white… I go to set the spoon down, but the spoon holder is so dirty that I have to wash it. That done, I can set the spoon down.
Boil over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes… The ocean is now a pot of milky water—you know, that eerie, almost-transparent kind. Ick. But that doesn’t last long. Almost instantly is begins to boil itself into a sort of white-gray glue stuff. Really weird. But I start jumping up and down. “It’s working! Look! Look at it!!” It’s thickening rapidly, before my very eyes! Wow. Ecstasy. So…20-30 minutes? Will I make it? I’ll have to. It sputters and stutters and bubbles and squeaks; quite an amusing sound, actually. Strangely delightful, somehow. Everything is delightful, all at once. -Except that I hadn’t added the nuts. It only occurred to me then, that they must have counted the nuts as “flavoring”—else, when was I to add them? I couldn’t, now. They wouldn’t mix in… The color slowing turns from that icky white to a sort of cream, and from there to an earthy yellow, and from there to gold. I hope that’s not the sugar burning… As long as it doesn’t go completely brown, hm? Yeah. It’ll be fine. Delight still hangs thick in the air. A glorious spring breeze in dancing in through the open window. (I hope there aren’t any bugs dancing in with it. Ha, that’d funny—seeing a bug dancing with a breeze!) Everything smells good—the springtime, the almond extract…the arrowroot powder? Ok, so just the breeze and the almondness. And I’m so delighted that even Brianna’s sitting down and playing "Colors of the Wind" on the piano for at least the hundredth time in the past week can’t completely destroy it. For those of you that don’t know, that’s phenomenal.
…until the mixture reaches “firm-ball stage”, or 248º F on a candy thermometer. It’s nearing the 20 minute mark. Not having a “candy thermometer” (hehe, don’t you just picture a little candy-cane like piece of delicious sugar, but shaped like a thermometer?), I decided (and was delighted all over again at this) to do it the good old-fashioned way. Consulting an explanation accompanying the recipe, I learn that “firm-ball stage” is when the mixture can be dropped off a spoon into a cup of cold water resulting in a smooth lump that is…well, firm. Neat-o. I can do this! I get my cup of cold water ready, and about around 20 minutes, I get a spoonful. Or try to. The mixture is, by this time, so completely gelled that it doesn’t exactly spoon out well. I manage to get a bit by scraping the big wooden spoon off with a soup spoon. It slips down into the water. It didn’t really make a lump, though. More like a sea-weed shaped…thing. Hm. I let it boil a couple more minutes, and try it again. Better. But is it firm? Not really... To save from being wasteful, I pop the form into my mouth. Yum. On try three, I decide it’s done. It’ll have to be. The mixture’s getting dangerously near that burnt brown color, in places.
Pour the hot mixture into the pan or form and allow to set. Ok. Cake pan ready, I pour the goop in. Or drop it in. It slides over the lip of the pot, and into the pan. I, with difficulty (and help from Brianna, who’s long since done playing her all-too-familiar song), manage to spread it somewhat evenly over the pan. And now it sets. It doesn’t say how long; just till it’s cool. Wow. I’m really liking this recipe. No nerve-wracking 24 hours! Great. I set out a plate with powdered sugar in it, to roll the pieces in when they’re cool. And I come into the computer room to start typing this out.
When cool, release from form or cut into cubes as applicable and roll each piece in powdered sugar, granulated sugar, or desiccated coconut. About two hours later, it’s cool. The big moment. *drum roll* I step up to the island, and just gaze at it for a minute. (It still looks queer; an orange-ish gell, with little splotches of dark where the sugar got…well-cooked.) I gulp. Well, here goes. I tip it up…and the precious stuff stays put. Oh, joy! Thanks, God-so much!. I grab a knife, and stick it in. And it sticks. Ooh. This is going to be trickier than I thought. I go at it with a will, and get a line cut down the middle of it. It’s certainly gelly… I maneuver a “piece” (i.e., glob) out, and try to roll it in the powdered sugar. (I was rather out of granulated sugar, and I’m not about to guess what “desiccated” means.) It would’ve worked perfectly if it didn’t stick so fast to my fingers. But I managed to get it unstuck, with the help of the powered sugar. And now…should I try it? I guess I’d better. I pull a little bit off, and pop it in my mouth. Um…it tastes delicious. But it has the consistency of particularly-gummy gummy worms. Not thick; rather airy, actually. Like…bouncy rubber. Interesting. I have to laugh, as I cut and pull and dig and roll. It’s not quite how I expected it to come out. :) But I, Aisling, have made Turkish Delight—that worked. Maybe it’s not as good as the professionals’, but I don’t give a darn. It’s mine, and I made it, and it tastes good—and hey, it’s rather fun chewing that rubbery stuff!
Well, there you have it. The end to the story. A happy ending, in the end. So that’s good. (But if I’d ‘ve only had real cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder, I’m sure it would’ve worked out perfectly. Hm… “Mom? Since we’re out of water, and we have to go the store anyway…”)