The first time I had Kaimaki ice cream was back in the 90’s in Thessaloniki, Greece. This northern Greek city is second in population but tops when it comes to food. There are so many influences in the food that reveal the city’s past. Thessaloniki has celebrated just 100 years of being free from the Ottoman Yoke and the influence in the food can still be found.
As I recall, I was directed by family friend Taki (a senior citizen with a detailed memory of the city) telling me about Dondourma, this stretchy ice cream that could be found at a small ice cream shop located just up the street from Panagia Chalkeon (the shop isn’t there anymore).
Throughout most of Greece, this ice cream is called Kaimaki ice cream, a word rooted in the Turkish word, “Kaimak” and no doubt referring to the cream in this ice cream. If cream offers richness, then the sahlep powder offers the stretch to this unique and very tasty ice cream.
Sahlep powder is ground from wild orchids (cannot be cultivated) and therefore it can be pricey. I found real sahlep powder at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, in the Kapani Market in Thessaloniki and I bought mine in spice shop near the Varvakeios Market in Athens.
This dreamy, stretchy ice cream contains sugar and it’s perfumed with mastiha, a spice that comes from the resin of a specific tree that grows only on the southern tip of Chios. Mastiha is one Greece’s unique protected appellation products.
Many of you may not find sahlep powder but you can (and should make this recipe). Harold McGee adds that corn starch, guar gum or konjac can be used as substitutes.
Kaimaki Ice Cream
2-3 mastiha tears
1/4 cup pure sahlep powder (use corn starch if you can’t find sahlep)
2 1/2 cups of whole milk
2 2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
- Place your mastiha tears in the freezer for 15 minutes then grind into a powder with a mortar and pestle or place in plastic and use a rolling pin to grind. Add the ground mastiha and sahlep into a bowl with 1 cup of your milk. Mix until there are no more lumps.
- Pour the remaining milk with the cream and sugar in a pot and place on your stovetop over medium-low heat and bring up to a gentle boil while stirring. Now add the milk/mastiha/Simmer for about 15 minutes and continue to stir until it reaches the consistency of cream and just coats the back of a spoon.
- Pour into bowl and place plastic wrap over the mixture so that a skin doesn’t form and allow to cool. Place in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, place in your ice cream machine and churn according to your model’s instructions. Remove your ice cream and transfer to a tub and freeze overnight.
- Serve on its own topped with ground pistachios or serve alongside some Karydopita.
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