Today I’m sharing Syrian Mastic Ice Cream with Pistachios.
Bakdash is the most famous Syrian ice cream parlor in Damascus, and it has been for over 120 years. Customers crowd around the celebrated shop in the Souk al Hamadiyeh to watch this creamy treat being made. Wooden mallets pound the ice cream into a drum, making a rhythmic percussion song. It’s then stretched and pulled, thanks to the addition of sahlab, a flour made from orchid roots, and mastic, a tree resin that makes Arabic gum, giving it its signature texture. The refreshing dessert is then scooped up into a cup and topped with a generous portion of pistachios.
The shop has been operating this way since it opened in 1895 during Ottoman rule, all the way through French occupation, a War of Independence and a brutal civil war. There’s something magical about ice cream and its way to have us live in the moment, forgetting all of life’s obstacles.
As Syrians have been forced to move across the world, Bakdash has followed them. In 2013, they opened a location in Amman, Jordan. A baker in Anneheim, California imported the same machine as the Damascus original to feed a growing Syrian population (although he was forced to use a different machine due to complications with electricity conversions). Just like with other Middle Eastern sweets, many home cooks found themselves replicating the ice cream recipe, just so they can have a true taste of home.
The great thing about this recipe is that it does not require an ice cream maker. In fact, it turns out much better when using a stand mixer. Sahlab and mastic are necessary components in order to achieve the taffy-like consistency and to provide the floral and piney flavor, respectively. They can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online.
The recipe also calls for qashta, or Middle Eastern clotted cream. You can make your own, recipe here or buy it at the Middle Eastern store. Dream Whip is another funny ingredient that points to the resourcefulness of Arabs who adapted to North American ingredients, but it also adds a nice creamy texture. The result is a rose water-scented and pistachio-studded roll of deliciousness that is sliced into portions for everyone to enjoy.
I hope you give this recipe a try! If you do, don’t forget to put it in the comments and tag @omayah.atassi and #omayahcooks on Instagram. I love to see your creations!
Syrian Mastic Ice Cream with Pistachios
This is inspired by the famous ice cream of Bakdash in Damascus. It's made using a stand mixer instead of an ice cream maker. Sahlab, a flour made from the root of orchids and mastic, tree resin and rose water give this its signature flavor.
Prep time: 5 hours
2 c whole milk
2 c heavy whipping cream
2 c sugar
1/2 c sahlab powder
1 tsp mastic, crushed
1 Tbsp orange blossom water
1/2 c qashta, homemade or canned
1 envelope of Dream Whip
1 c raw pistachios, chopped
- Whisk together milk, heavy cream, sugar and sahlab in a large bowl. Transfer to a saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Just before it starts boiling, add mastic and orange blossom. Once it boils, remove from heat and let cool completely.
- After it reaches room temp, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add qashta and Dreamwhip and mix on high for 2 minutes or until well combined. Transfer to the freezer.
- After 1 hour, mix again on high for 2 minutes. Repeat 4 times.
- Transfer ice cream to 9x13 glass dish and spread evenly. Freeze overnight.
- Cut the ice cream in half, making 2 9x6.5 inch pieces. Spread 2 pieces of plastic wrap across a surface. Sprinkle pistachios on the plastic wrap. Spread each half on top of the pistachios and thin out. Sprinkle pistachios on top and roll the ice cream twice, as if you're making a Swiss roll. Cover with more pistachios and wrap with plastic. Freeze again until hardened, about 6 hours.
- Freeze for up to 2 weeks.