Mahlab Ground, also known as Mahlepi in Greece, is a unique and flavorful spice that is made from the seeds of the St. Lucie cherry, a species of sour cherry that grows in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The seeds are collected from the cherries, dried, and then ground into a fine powder that is used as a spice. The name mahlab is derived from the Arabic word for “bread crust,” which refers to the way the spice is used to flavor bread in traditional Middle Eastern cuisine.
The flavor of mahlab is difficult to describe, as it is quite unique. It has a sweet and slightly bitter taste, with hints of cherry, almond, and cinnamon. It is commonly used in baking, particularly in Middle Eastern pastries, cakes, cookies, and breads. In these baked goods, mahlab gives a delicate and nuanced flavor that is both sweet and nutty. It is also used in savory dishes, such as stews, cheeses, and sauces, where it adds depth and complexity to the dish. In Middle Easter cooking, it is used in desserts like kaak, which is a soft cookie made with anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and mahlab. It is also the spice used to flavor sesame bread sticks, which are also called kaak but are more like biscotti.
One of the key characteristics of mahlab is its ability to work well with other spices. It pairs particularly well with cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla, and is often used in spice blends for these spices. For example, in traditional Middle Eastern sweets, mahlab is used in conjunction with cinnamon and sugar to create a sweet, nutty and warming flavor that is unique to the region.
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