When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher started reading C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia to my class. I adored the books, but at the time, I couldn’t fathom what this “Turkish Delight” thing was that Edmund was so willing to turn traitor for. It didn’t remain a mystery for long, though, as a friend’s mom visited a local bakery (we lived in Stuttgart, Germany at the time) and picked up a box for everyone to try.
As it turns out, I was the Edmund of our group. No one else could stand the candy at all, and I thought it was absolutely delightful, even if it did taste a bit like perfume. I doubt I would’ve turned my friends over to the White Witch for a box of the stuff, but I definitely wanted more.
I’d have to wait a long time for that to happen, though. In my late teens, I spent two summers in Turkey, where, yes, Turkish Delight was available in most bakery shops. They’d have huge window displays, the cubes stacked high (not boxed until purchased), covered completely with icing sugar (to prevent sticking) and pistachios. The pistachios were a new addition for me, but a welcome one. I came to realize that what I had perceived as a perfume taste was actually rose water and that the first candy I’d tried must’ve had far too much. I encountered two distinct flavors of Turkish Delight during my stay: rose water and citrus. Both are tasty, but I definitely prefer the former. And while most Turkish Delight available outside Turkey comes in neat little bite-sized cubes, the ones in the bakeries were the size of my fist, or larger, a monumentally huge treat!
Over the years, I’ve had friends and family (and Cat!) give me a variety of brands, both domestic and Turkish, which have been quite tasty indeed. This time around, Cat’s found me a Turkish import to try. Hazer Baba, founded in 1986, is based in Istanbul. In addition to Turkish Delight, the company produces other confections, teas and coffees, all for export. They have a wide variety of Turkish Delight: rose, lemon, pistachio, hazelnut, almond, menthe, apricot, honey. They all sound absolutely delicious! The treats come in a variety of gift boxes, including some very attractive wooden boxes. Up for review is a 454 g box of plain Turkish Delight.
First off, the box illustration is absolutely marvelous, showing a scene from years past – a trio of figures in traditional dress admiring a tray of treats against a pastoral setting. Inside the box, the Turkish Delight is wrapped in something akin to parchment paper, which does nothing whatsoever for keeping the sugar where it belongs, so be prepared to clean up after each treat! The candy itself comes in small, bite-sized cubes and is nut-free. The texture is chewy, as to be expected, but not excessively so (I lost a crown to a really chewy piece last year, much to my dismay!) and very mildly flavored. I thought at first this was the rose water variety, but a quick look at the ingredients shows that there’s no rose water, only sugar and vanillin, balanced by citric acid.
Regardless, the candy is quite pleasant, sweet, but not overly so, and gone in a bite or two, which leads to a second … or third … or fourth piece. Be wary, though, each cube is 65 calories, so if you have more than a serving (two pieces) the calories can start to add up pretty quickly. Better to chew slowly and savor each bite, especially if you don’t know when the White Witch might show up next with a tempting box. . . .