Lokum – The aptly named Turkish Delight

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Lokum, better known as Turkish Delight, are soft and they go quite well with a cup of Turkish coffee... But where does this yummy dessert come from?

What is Lokum (Turkish Delight)?

Lokum is a confection made with starch and sugar. Depending on the taste that is desired, nuts can also be added, but the most well-known version of lokum is probably rosewater flavored.

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The origins

The invention of lokum as we know it today is attributed to Bekir Efendi, who came to Istanbul in 1777 from Anatolia. The Haci Bekir confectionary in the Eminönü district is still open to this day, run by his descendants. It is considered one of the 100 oldest companies in the world.
Before Bekir Efendi found his way to the metropolis, sources cite lokum being produced in the 14th and 15th centuries, with the key difference that instead of sugar, honey and pekmez (a kind of molasses) were used, as well as flour instead of starch (1). There are also sources that show the predecessor to lokum was made in the Persian Sassanid Empire (224–651). (2)
With the candy growing in popularity in the 18th century, the recipe for lokum was kept a secret, which led Europeans to use gelatin and not quite hitting the mark. The first foreigner to record an accurate recipe was Friedrich Unger, chief confectioner to King Otto I of Greece, who published it in 1838 (3).

Etymology

Before the word and modern form of lokum existed its was known in Ottoman as “rahatü’l-hulkum”, meaning ease to the throat, describing sweet, soft deliciousness tracing back as far as the 10th century.
This word got corrupted in colloquial speech to “rahat-lokum”, then “latilokum” and, as is common in the lazy nature of human speech, it was shortened further to “lokum”. The word itself existed previously as a term for small pastries, coming from the word “lokma”, meaning morsel (3).
It is no wonder that the confection was given the name Turkish delight by English travelers in the 19th century who brought it back to Europe, though the name “lokoum” stuck in France and the Balkans while in Greece and Cyprus it is called “lokumania” (1).

Lokum – the aptly named Turkish delight

Servings 15 portions
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 600 gr sugar
  • 720 ml water plus additional 120 ml
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 3 tbsp starch
  • Powdered sugar
  • Rose water, lemon juice, nuts, if desired
  • Food coloring, if desired

Instructions

  • Dissolve the sugar in 720 ml of water, bring to a boil and add the cream of tartar. Remove any foam with paper towels. In a separate bowl, mix together the water and the starch. Add about two tablespoons of the simmering syrup into the starch slurry, mix and pour into the boiling syrup. At this point you can add rose water (as much or as little as you like) and/or other flavorings such as nuts, and continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Turn of the heat and add food coloring if so desired. In a wide, dish sprinkle generous amounts of powdered sugar and pour the mixture onto it. Cover generously with powdered sugar and let it cool completely. Cut into any shape you like and serve.
    Lokum - The aptly named Turkish Delight

Notes

Bibliography

(1) Ali Batu and Bilal Kırmacı, “Production of Turkish delight (lokum)” in “Food Research International”, volume 42, issue 1, 2009.
(2) Deniz Gürsoy, “Tarihin süzgecinde mutfak kültürümüz”, 2013.
(3) Priscilla Mary Işın, “Sherbet and Spice: The Complete Story of Turkish Sweets and Desserts”, 2013.
Course: Dessert

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