"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Steve"s Evil Kitchen: Attack of the Turkish Songe

I have struggled with making Turkish Delight. So many others have as well that most published recipes include gelatin, which is kind of cheating. The correct texture requires a carbohydrate gel. After having the weeping mess most people get, I also scorched a batch before getting it right.

Step one: fondant

Add 4 cups sugar, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and 1 1/2 cups water. Cook to soft ball stage (240F), cool to 46C (I switched thermometers), then stir until it briefly becomes rock hard. If possible, store overnight before next step.

Step two: starch base

Combine 1 cup cornstarch, 2 3/4 cup water and 1 tsp. cream of tartar. Heat medium high, stirring continuously, until thickened.

Step three: combine the two mixtures and heat, medium, until the mixture becomes translucent and the edges of the bubbles popping at the surface retain shape above the rest of the mixture. Not cooking long enough leads to weeping; cooking too long leads to scorching [Plan to ruin two batches before you get it right]. Add flavorings, colors and inclusions at this time. Pour into a greased pan, covered with oiled paper, overnight at room temperature.
I ripped off sections at this point to see if it was holing - it was.

Step four: cut with an oiled knife, coat and bury pieces (about 1/2" x 1 inch x whatever depth) in 1/4 c. cornstarch and 1 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar for up to 1-2 days.

Where I went all weird

I decided I wanted to make an aerated delight, using the method of sponge candy, where baking soda is added to aerate hard candy. That technique depends upon using a matrix as solid as sugar cooked to hard-crack and a temperature where baking soda decomposes. The alkalinity causes the gelatin protein to brown (Maillard reaction), giving a caramel color and flavor.

Turkish Delight is not made at a high enough temperature for this to work and I didn't want browning. I decided to use baker's ammonia, an old-fashioned leavener available in specialty shops, which decomposes at a much lower temperature, releasing the stench of ammonia (which is why it's used so little now). I wasn't sure this would be enough to work and I was worried about the flavor with all the base added, so I also added tartaric acid in equal amount. Tartaric acid - available in brewshops - is related to cream of tartar and lends a mild artificial grape flavor... it's the flavor of grape sodas, for example. That led me to add raisins as an inclusion as well, to increase the grapiness.

There's a reason I'm not showing a picture of the result. The sponge fought back.

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