Monday, October 05, 2015

Mastic fondant

mastic
The dish I most wanted to make from the minute I got my copy of Prune was the mastic fondant in ice water. The photo is so mysterious: a plain glass of ice water containing a blob of white paste and a spoon. Here’s a lovely picture of some fondant that resembles the shot in Prune. Can you see why it was intriguing?

Gabrielle Hamilton's vision for Prune didn't include headnotes explaining her recipes, so I had to turn to the internet to learn about mastic fondant. Mastic fondant comes from the apparently vast world of Greek spoon sweets: intense, sugary confections that are served in tiny portions with a glass of ice water.  Spoon sweets can be syrupy preserved fruits, eggplants, nuts, even olives, in addition to the fondant, which comes in different flavors. Mastic, in case you were wondering, is the resin from a Mediterranean evergreen tree; it emerges as sap, but by the time you buy it will look like very small, beige chunks of rock candy. Its flavor is faintly piney.

The other day, I made the mastic fondant. You grind your mastic, cook a syrup of sugar and glucose to 240 degrees, add the ground mastic, cool the syrup to 110 degrees, pour it onto a cold countertop and push it around with a bench scraper for a minute or so until it turns opaque and becomes so stiff that you can’t move it anymore. You then maneuver it into a jar for storage. When you want to serve it, you scoop up a spoonful and put it in a glass of ice water.

It all came off perfectly. I wasn’t going to serve this to anyone in my family so there was no point in waiting. I scooped myself some mastic fondant immediately, for breakfast. It was supersticky and dense with a barely discernible piney flavor. Mostly it tasted like the fondant you might find on a wedding cake, except wet and creamy.  Eating it is fun -- you sort of nibble at it and lick it and dunk it back in the glass where it softens a little more and every tiny bite comes with a refreshing film of cool water. Irresistible, though it wasn’t exactly delicious. It was more like having a delightful new toy.  I couldn't stop eating it. I ate mastic fondant all day and little else, pausing every few hours for another scoop of glucose.
just so you know I'm not making this all up
I felt like bloody hell by 5 o'clock.

Obviously, I love mastic fondant. I knew I would the minute I saw that photo of the white goo in the glass. You can probably tell from what I've written whether mastic fondant is your thing or not. I'm guessing it won't be.

I have to say, I love that Gabrielle Hamilton just threw this super-weird dessert in there between recipes for lemon panna cotta and pear tarte tatin, no context or explanation. Seriously, I love it. It makes the book more exciting, somehow.


37 comments:

  1. Thank you . I was very interested in this. I think I would like it, if I ever tried it. Thanks for
    pressing on with Prune, it's been inspiring

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    Replies
    1. I think I would especially like to eat mastic fondant in Greece.

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    2. It was frequently offered by the ya yas when you went to a strangers house

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  2. I am reading this in my quiet, dark house, as everyone else sleeps, and I just laughed out loud.

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  3. Hi
    Sorry this is not related to your lovely Prune post. I am traveling to San Diego and wanted to see what you have blogged about that city. I want to have a tipsy baker experience in CA! Is there a way to search your blog that I am missing?
    Thanks for all of your writing.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think I've ever blogged about San Diego. I did go there a number of years ago on an assignment to write about the San Diego Zoo. It was one of my favorite stories for that particular magazine, but it seems to have been taken down. Anyway, zoo. Go!!! I later wrote another story, but to be honest my memory of everything in the story is blurry: http://www.viamagazine.com/destinations/san-diego-bargains

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    2. You should try the Donut Bar!

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    3. Also the Point Loma tide pools under Cabrillo. Don't forget to check for low tide :)

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    4. Oh thank you for the fun suggestions. Jennifer and her readers rock!

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    5. Also, yes it's corny, but the Belmont Park roller coaster is worth a spin because you get to look out over lovely Mission Beach and San Diego Bay while hurtling around on a wooden coaster. Classic beach experience.

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  4. OK, I have decided that you have come under GH's power in some way, bewitched, as it were. This does not appeal to me in any way! It sounds sticky and tooth achingly sweet. Maybe I miss the point. I'm glad you liked it, but this does not go on my bucket list. I guess that once again, we have determined that I am not as adventurous as you!

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    Replies
    1. No, no, I have my wits about me. I was going to say that a taste for weird desserts is one of my quirks. I love Chinese desserts (almond gelatin), Indian desserts, strange Filipino desserts, Burmese falooda. Anything sweet and a little strange is right up my alley so I knew this was going to work for me.

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    2. Come to NYC during the summer and we'll go to Jackson Heighrs and gorge on kulfi ice cream!

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    3. My 2 Abyssinian cats go nuts for that Chinese sweet: sesame balls with some kind of dark paste inside .. I figure it must be made with lard. I break off tiny pieces for them and they think I'm not doing it fast enough.

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  5. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Did you see in the comments of your first link that there is a restaurant in Perth that serves vanilla fondant in ouzo? Opa! I have made only three recipes from the book: the braised lamb (delicious!), sliced oranges with vanilla bean and rose water, and her eggs benedict (1/2 recipe of sauce). In my opinion, the cookbook is a lot more intimate than her memoir. Her writing seems more passionate and less detached. I'm not offended by her brusqueness. To me, it seems playful and teasing. Perhaps her sense of humor doesn't translate well? Getting ready to make 1/2 recipe of the banana bread...

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    Replies
    1. It's very personal, isn't it? And manages to be so without any kind of conventional confessional stuff. I am no longer bothered by her brusqueness either. Thank you for doing the math on the banana bread. It probably took 45 seconds. Half recipe goes in 9-inch pan?

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    2. That's what I'm going with

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    3. The banana bread is dark, buttery, and very clove-y with a dense crumb. I had a bit of spillage but probably because I put in more walnuts than the recipe called for. Maybe next time I would leave out 1/2 cup of batter. Baked at 335 for 1 hour and 20 mins and covered the top with foil about 40 mins into bake. Probably the most in-depth recipe for banana bread I have ever made. Loved it!

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    4. I'll have to try it now. I did a big banana bread tasting a few years ago and came up with a favorite (basically the recipe from Flour via a blog commenter) but I am open to change.

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  6. To me this dessert sounds, um, not appetizing, to put it mildly, but your writing is so compelling I read the entry with utter fascination. Thank you.

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  7. The crazy Egyptian dude that used to work at my local bagel store used to give me packets of mastic gum. Chewy in the extreme. He also used to pick up my youngest son and hold him over the short order grilling station. He doesn't work there anymore. He was really fun and really crazy.

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  8. I think I would especially like to eat mastic fondant in Greece.the cookbook is a lot more intimate than her memoir

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