In the Muffin’s recipe, as you probably noticed, I used an unusual ingredient: Mahlep. It was the very first time I used it.
I discovered this aromatic spice in Greece while exploring the local market. At the time I had no idea what it was or what it was used for.
I asked around but no one could explain me because of their poor english. I bought anyway a very small pack, that I’m regretting now, I should have bought more….
Once back home, I put it away and completely forgot about it. A month later I flew to Antalya in Turkey and again the same happened; I found the Mahlep, in a spice & chocolate store, but this one was in powder. Again I asked what it was for and this time I was told that it’s something traditional for cakes but it should be used in a very small quantity. And this was all I got from trying to understand very poor spoken english.
Still I was very intrigued…. but I had a good feeling about this powder. The few words I got from the guys at the shop were enough to make me buy it, again! This time back at home I did my research. I learned about it and decided to experiment it. The muffin dates were my first creation where I have used the Mahlep powder. It left a beautiful cherry scent in the kitchen, making my mouth watering for a bite! I was taken by surprise how good Mahlep made this muffins!
What is Mahlep? It is an aromatic spice, just like nutmeg. Is made from the seeds of a species of cherry. The cherry stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel and after ground to a powder before use.. The tree is native in Mediterranean region, Iran and central Asia. The finely ground mahlepi powder is made from the inner kernels of fruit pits of a native Persian cherry tree (Prunus cerasus mahaleb).
What is used for? It is used in small quantities to sharpen sweet foods. Used for centuries in the Middle East Greece, Armenia, Turkey, Iran as a flavouring for baked goods. In Greek cousin, it is the characteristic flavouring of Christmas and Easter cakes into pastry recipes. Something that I never tasted because I eat grain-free – Paleo. In Armenia where it is used almost exclusively for sweetbreads and confectionery and Turkey it is used for pogača – kind of small round bread
What it tastes like? It has a distinctive fruity taste, a delicate fragrance that is dominated by a bitterness flavour similar to almonds and cherry notes. Although quite aromatic in the sense that “a little bit goes a long way” it is the combination of the fragrance and the bitterness which makes the spice uniquely suited for sweet foods.
How to store? As with all spices, should be stored in a cool dry place, and it must be used within a year or so for the most powerful flavour.
Where to buy:
Istanbul: Egyptian Spice Bazaar