This post was created in partnership with Whole Earth Sweetener Co.
Turkish delight is one of those old-school sweets that was always around during my childhood in the Soviet Union, which is surprising because treats were scarce and mainly homemade. There was a tiny store a short walk away from our home, where they carried neat, white paper boxes, lined with tissue and filled with delicate pink, sugar-dusted Turkish Delight squares. We called the treat rahat lokum (just another commonly used name for Turkish Delight). I spent my childhood convinced that it was fairy food, and cherished every pleasantly jelly-like, aromatic bite from the magical paper box.
I’ve since completely forgotten about rahat lokum, dismissing it as an outdated sweet of my semi-hungry childhood, until I was in Moscow a few months ago. There is a high-vibe sweets brand sold in some grocery stores in Russia, which makes chocolate, wafers and such, with surprisingly wholesome ingredients, cool herbal add-ins, and a pleasantly low amount of non-refined sugar. I always make a point of hunting down some of their stuff to bring back home. This time around, I discovered a new product of theirs, which was a healthier, green tea-flavored Turkish Delight. It was delicious and disappeared in no time once my family got a taste of it back in Florida. I quickly got the urge to figure out my own recipe, as I often do with these types of obsessions.
Thankfully, I’m no stranger to the thickening and gelatinizing properties of arrowroot (starch from a tropical tuber) and agar-agar (sea vegetable). Both make for the perfect, allergy-friendly and healthful alternative to cornstarch, which is traditional to Turkish Delight recipes. After some consideration, I decided to color my delight with hibiscus tea, as a tribute to the pink treats of my childhood, and because I’m generally obsessed with hibiscus and its million health benefits. For an extra aromatic finish, I added some orange blossom water instead of the more commonly used rose water, which truly takes this treat to the next level. When coated in arrowroot powder, this Turkish Delight looks surprisingly professional, as though it was store-bought. The cool thing is that in reality it’s pretty easy to make at home, just take a look at the video above to see the whole process.
For sweetener in this recipe, I used an organic blend of stevia and honey from Whole Earth. I’ve had a pretty turbulent relationship with stevia over the years. I’ve always wanted to get into it as a sugar substitute, knowing that it’s totally natural, free of calories, and a zero on the glycemic index, but I just cannot get used to its potent, powerful flavor (when extracted it’s something like 200 times sweeter than sugar!). Any time I add pure stevia extract to anything, it’s all I can taste, and that flavor lingers in my mouth for hours in an unpleasant way. Thankfully, Whole Earth Sweetener Co. figured out that when mixed with other, more traditional sweeteners, stevia is barely distinguishable, and they offer a few carefully considered stevia blends. The neat thing is that because of stevia’s potency, you only need half of the amount of their sweetener in any given recipe. In other words, this Turkish Delight recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of the honey and stevia blend, while you would need twice the amount (1/2 cup) of pure honey or maple syrup to achieve the same sweetness without the stevia. After trying the Whole Earth stevia-honey blend, as well as their stevia-raw sugar blend, I’m totally on board. I love being able to use less sugar in my sweet recipes, and I’m hoping that these products can help me ease into a love affair with pure stevia, some day :)
I’m curious to hear about your guys’ experience with stevia. Do you use it? Did it take you some time to get used to it? Any tips and stories are much appreciated!
- Combine the water with the hibiscus in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let the tea steep for 30 minutes.
- Prepare an 8 x 8-inch square, rimmed dish by lining it up with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Strain the hibiscus tea. Mix ½ cup of the tea with ⅔ cup of the arrowroot powder in a medium bowl. The mixture will be quite thick and difficult to mix at first. Set aside.
- Pour the rest of the hibiscus tea into the same saucepan used for brewing the tea. Add the sweetener and the agar agar powder, whisk to combine and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking periodically.
- At the end of the 5 minutes, give the prepared arrowroot mixture a good stir and slowly pour it into the saucepan with the agar mixture, stirring vigorously. The mixture will be very thick and stretchy. Remove from heat and add in the orange blossom water, whisking to combine.
- Immediately spoon the mixture into the prepared dish, evening it out as much as you can. Place the dish into the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, until the mixture is completely set.
- Once set, lift the delight square out of the dish onto a cutting board, using the extending ends of the parchment paper. Slice into around 48 cubes and roll them in the remaining ¼ cup arrowroot powder to coat. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Enjoy!