As a recent immigrant to Greece, I decided that my first blog entry should involve a typical Greek food product. Although there are many to choose from, one that does not exist anywhere else is an ivory colored resinous extract from the Pistacia Lentiscus tree, only found on the Greek island of Chios, named mastica.
The mastica liquid drops from the tree and is dried by the sun and then called tears. When chewed it softens into a gum, and it has been used as a health food in Greece since ancient times. It claims to heal ulcers, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and to strengthen the immune system.
People have a love-hate relationship with mastica’s distinctive flavor and aroma; it can be described as a mixture of slightly smoky pine resin and lemon. The first time I tried it was at restaurant Anthos in New York where chef Michael Psilakis used it to create an pear mastica sorbet. So, standing in the a local grocery store, holding a small box of mastica in my hand, I was puzzled as to how to use it.
I recently purchased a new cookbook by Swedish chef Leila Lindholm (http://www.leila.se) called “A Piece of Cake”. It’s a beautiful book with recipes that remind me of home; both in Sweden and the US. I decided to try her cup cake recipe, but wanted to incorporate mastic in the frosting. The result: a golden cupcake with a mastic marshmallow frosting. Topped with sliced strawberries, these were very tasty!
Golden Cupcakes with Mastica Marshmallow Frosting
Makes: 12 large cupcakes
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar)
- 3.5 oz butter (100 gram)
- 3.5 fl.oz milk (1 deciliter)
- 12 fl. oz all purpose flour (3.5 deciliters)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- lemon juice and zest from one lemon
- 4 large strawberries, cut into slices
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175C).
2. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
3. In a bowl, beat sugar, eggs and vanilla extract with a whisk until pale yellow and smooth.
4. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat and let cool slightly, and then add milk.
5. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In three additions, mix the dry ingredients into the sugar-egg mixture and end with the dry ingredients. When combined add the lemon juice and zest, stir gently until incorporated.
6. Spoon the batter 2/3 of the way into the paper liners. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are springy and golden. Transfer the cupcakes to a rack to cool. When cooled, top with the mastica marshmellow frosting and strawberry slices.
Mastica Marshmellow Frosting
Yield: about 3 cups
- 1 cup granulated sugar (2.5 deciliters)
- 1 teaspoon mastica drops
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- a pinch of salt
1. In a small sauce pan combine sugar, mastica drops and water. Heat over low heat until sugar and mastica drops are completely dissolved. Let cool.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form.
3. Carefully pour the sugar-mastica syrup into the egg whites and continue to beat until frosting is very shiny, approximately 5 minutes.