Mahleb or Mahlab is an unusual fragrant spice made from the seeds of a small, black cherry tree that grows wild in the Mediterranean region across to Turkey. It was first used for perfumes in the Middle East and Turkey, where it later became popular as a spice for flavouring breads. The world’s major producer of mahlab is now Turkey.
Mahlab is the dried kernel of a small cherry stone.
Bouquet: quite sweet with notes of cherry and almond. Some describe it as resembling marzipan. Flavour: a combination of fragrant rosewater-like sweetness and a nutty and faintly bitter, but not unpleasant aftertaste. Hotness Scale: 1
Mahlab is used widely in Mediterranean countries and the Middle East, especially Turkey, in breads, biscuits and less sweet cakes and pastries. It is well worth experimenting with this unfamiliar but intriguing flavouring. One or two spoonfuls added to a rich pastry for fresh fruit flans gives them a subtle note. Simple milk puddings can be transformed with a few pinches of mahlab and Turkish rice is given its floral fragrance and interesting taste from the spice. A traditional Greek Easter bread is flavoured with mahlab and decorated with coloured eggs. Because of its fragrant character and potential for bitterness, use it sparingly, 1/2 to 1 tsp (2 – 5 ml) to 2 cups (500 ml) of flour in a recipe.
Ingredients: Ground Mahlab*