Mahlab Shortbread



The key ingredient is Mahlab, sometimes spelled Mahleb, or Mahlepi; According to Wikipedia "it is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of the St Lucie Cherry (Prunus mahaleb). The cherry stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel, which is about 5 mm diameter, soft and chewy on extraction, but ground to a powder before use. The flavour is similar to a combination of bitter almond and cherry."

It does have a dried cherry resonance and an almondy doughy scent...and is frankly different from anything else, and quite extraordinary. I've been dying to try it for ages and finally got a great recipe and the mahlab to go with it.

I got the recipe from Zamouri Spices (www.zamourispices.com)...one of my favourite online spice emporia when I was living in the US and a good place to get your Mahlab from if you live in the USA. If you are in the UK, you can order from http://www.maroque.co.uk/, or check out your local Turkish or Middle Eastern grocery...I was pleasantly suprised to find Mahlab readily available in several shops in the Cowley area of Oxford, so you'll definitely see more food adventures and photos up here soon.

The recipe couldn't be easier, and it's really quick. Note that it calls for SALTED butter.

6 Tbsp Salted butter
1 C Flour, sifted
2 tsp Mahleb (ground)
1/4 C Sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
Confectioners'/powdered sugar

Melt the butter and cool until lukewarm. Mix the flour with the mahleb and sugar. Add the butter and vanilla and mix to a crumbly dough. Roll rounded teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on baking sheets lined w/ parchment paper.

Bake at 300 F/ 150C for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and let them stand about 30 seconds so they can firm up. While hot, roll in confectioners' sugar (be careful as they are still crumbly), and return to oven for 1 minute. Cool a few minutes on the sheets then transfer them to a wire rack with a spatula to finish cooling.

The perfect accompaniment to this tasty tea time treat, as far as I can see, is a cup of Mariage Freres Sakura scented Green Tea.

It's fragrant floral and cherry taste compliments the chewy moist biscuits beautifully...you can order online and there are a few other outlets that do sell Mariage Freres (although not a tenth of the selection available in that Emporium of French style scented teas with multiple Parisian outlets), and it is worth the trouble, trust me.