Exotic flavors are on the brain. I can’t help myself. I’d been thinking about this for over a week and needed to bring it to life. You may remember the White Witch giving poor Edmund some of this ‘enchanted’ candy in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. She basically ‘roofied’ the poor kid with this magical stuff to trick him into bringing his siblings through the wardrobe. Turkish Delight (or Lokum, in Turkish) originated in Istanbul and is a gel-like candy flavored with rosewater or citrus, sometimes featuring pistachios, various other nuts, or dates and dusted in powdered sugar.
However, before we begin our journey through Narnia’s kitchen, we need to talk about perfume again. Why? Because it’s all about balance. In my heightened perfume-sampling years, I read quite a bit of fragrance buzz surrounding the 1998 Serge Lutens fragrance, Rahät Loukoum, which is named (and scented) after the confection, Turkish Delight. There are several gourmand fragrances based on this delicacy such as Montale’s Sweet Oriental Dream and another one that I tried long ago, Keiko Macheri’s Loukhoum. I initially thought I would like it based on the notes. As it turned out, it was entirely too powdery/ musky in the drydown (after all the top-notes fade) for my taste. The aforementioned Rahät Loukoum by Serge Lutens is arguably the holy grail of Turkish Delight fragrances. Rahät is touted as a warm, honeyed, boozy, vanillic cherry-almond. There are floral notes, but they aren’t as dominant as the more gourmand notes. It is an ‘exclusive’ to Palais Royale Shiseido in Paris, which means it is a non-export (no shipping to the U.S.), and since it comes in the bell jar it will run you upwards of $250. I was lucky enough to sample it and on me, this scent is delightful and lasts a grand total of 30-45 minutes flat before it completely disappears. I have had better luck with the Lutens export-line fragrance called Louve which is available in the U.S. This lasts all day and smells better on me and while the fragrances share similar notes, the balance of said what makes the difference in all the perfume reviews. Niche-perfume lovers seem to hate Louve, however the U.S. market says otherwise. I find Louve to have more floral (rose, jasmine) and musky/powdery notes (musk/ amber). It smells close enough to its more exclusive sister and since the notes and staying power work better with my chemistry I actually prefer it to Rahät. I don’t wear it often, but in very cold weather I find it cozy and comforting.
Why is all of this important? Well, as I have said before, scent is closely tied to the palate. As you can see, I dabbled in several fragrances with basically all the same notes and scent-concepts and yet really, I’ve only committed to one that I’ve liked enough to purchase. I had a rather difficult and delicate balance decision to make with three extracts (almond, rose and vanilla) to pull off the recipe that I dreamed up. One false move and a person might think he or she is eating grandma’s tea rose soap, or just another almond dessert, and that’s certainly not the effect I had in mind.
I’d heard Turkish Delight described as nougat, but it’s really more of a gel-like consistency that melts in your mouth. However, the concept of making a creamy nougat dessert-version appealed to me. After purchasing rose-water extract to create this cocktail, I was inspired to create a cheesecake that married these exotic flavors without the use of any chocolate (I found several Turkish Delight cheesecake recipes online that used chocolate or a chocolate crust which reminds me more of this spectacular tea as opposed to the real Turkish Delight). I truly wanted my cheesecake to be all about nuts and roses and could not find anything like what I’ve come up with below. You will need a springform pan for this one. So without further adieu, I give you:
Lady Sensory’s Enchanted Turkish Delight Cheesecake:
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons, about 15 or 16 cookies), crushed/ground for crust
1/3 cup pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
pinch of salt
For the filling:
3 packages (8 oz bricks) of cream cheese, softened (I always use Philadelphia.)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch each of ground cardamom & nutmeg (roughly 1/8 of a teaspoon)
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (I suppose you could use Greek Yogurt, but it’s a cheesecake so go big or go home.)
1 tbsp lemon juice and any remaining zest from the crust
3/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp rose-water extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (you may also use vanilla beans or substitute the granulated sugar for vanilla sugar if you have either handy)
4-6 drops of red food coloring (I used 6, adjust depending on your pink-preference.)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Optional garnish: Rose petals and/or coconut – I wound up finding a wild rose tea and pulling some of the petals after unsuccessfully locating any candied rose petals locally. You can use fresh rose petals since are edible, but you must be mindful of where they are grown and the chemicals used. I wasn’t about to risk it.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine cookie crumbs, pistachios, zest, butter, sugar, and salt until well blended. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven and remove and allow to cool. Combine the ground spices with the flour. Beat cream cheese, sugar and flour mixture at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Then continuing on low, add sour cream, lemon juice (and any remaining zest), rose & almond extracts, and food coloring until blended. Fold in pistachios and pour filling into the prepared crust. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. The center should appear nearly set – it will continue to firm as it cools. Remove from oven and run a heat-proof plastic spatula around the side of the cake to loosen from the pan and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4-6 hours (you can make this the night before and allow to chill overnight). Release the pan and garnish with rose petals, coconut flakes or both. Look at how pretty it is – the contrast of green and pink is so Lilly Pulitzer. Put on a garden-party frock and sing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” to it. Okay, don’t do that. That might make you sound nuttier than your cheesecake. Now go ahead and indulge and try not to let your guests or yourself slip into a diabetic coma.
That mean White Witch ain’t got nothin’ on Lady Sensory….