Most bakeries in Istanbul display these pretty loaves at their windows and they are available not just for Easter but year round! Fragrant with mastic and mahlepi, enriched with butter, eggs and milk, the breads have a brioche like texture and are commonly enjoyed in the afternoon with tea or coffee.
Mahlepi or mahlab is usually added to savoury cookies, pastries, buttery turnovers while mastic is generally used for desserts, especially dairy based ones such as this mastic pudding, Turkish coffee or jams but the combination of these two flavours is a match made in heaven. If you are after the same combination but don’t want to fuss with yeast, this mahlepi and mastic cookies or cake is a great alternative.
I adapted this recipe from my favourite Turkish cookbook, Classical Turkish Cooking by Ayla Algar. Out of all the recipes I tried for this special bread Ms. Algar’s is by far the closest to the ones from my childhood.
I am sending this to Yeastspotting.
- 3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground mahlepi
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp mastic
- 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 stick butter, melted
- ½ cup whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp heavy cream
- Chopped or sliced raw hazelnuts (almonds can be substituted)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and mahlepi. Crush the mastic with sugar using a mortar and pestle and add it to the flour mixture, mix for a few seconds, then add the eggs, egg yolks, melted butter and warm milk, mix until a ball of dough forms, continue mixing until the dough looks smooth, you can also knead it on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, let it ferment until doubled in volume, this should take about 3 hours, depending on the room temperature and the temperature of the ingredients used.
Divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape two 3 stranded loaves, transfer them to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper leaving at least 3 inches space between the loaves. Let them proof for 1-3 hours, until almost doubled.
Preheat the oven to 350F, prepare the glaze by lightly beating the egg yolk with the cream and brush all over the breads, wait for 5 minutes and brush again with the glaze and top with nuts, if using.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown, the breads have a tendency to get dark very quickly, if that happens, tent with a piece of aluminum foil.
Once the breads are done, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack, serve with the jam of choice or honey.