The "tears of Chios" part refers to droplets of mastic gum, a plant resin produced from the mastic tree. The Ancient Greeks used it as chewing gum as well as to flavour wines, and during the Ottoman rule of Chios (a Greek island famous for its mastic production), it was apparently worth its weight in gold.
|A box of mastic (in large tears) from Chios.|
Tip 1: Keep mastic away from your pots and pans, at least in its soft and sticky form.
Tip 2: Rather than grinding the resin with a mortar and pestle, freeze and smash it into powder.
In terms of flavour, I found mastic to be a potent taste of pine resin: fresh and green, yet also very dominating. You only need a tiny bit to realise it is there! Most recipes I found use it in desserts, though apparently the Egyptians use it for savoury dishes as well. It must be a pretty common ingredient in that part of the world, because there is even a recipe for almond and mastic gum cake from Nestle Egypt.
The recipe I tried out was for making "napoleons in love". I had no idea what this was supposed to be at first, but I came to realise that "napoleon" is another term for what I knew as mille-feuille, and the love part comes from the use of pistachios and rose, as well as the shape of the final pastries.
|Assembled "napoleons in love", only a quarter of the recipe here, if that.|
I did have a bit of drama in the kitchen, though nothing too disastrous. I decided to be lazy and skip the steps of straining the pastry cream and cooling it in an ice bath. Only when I realised the custard was starting to separate did I whisk everything back together and cool it quickly.
Tip 3: Follow the steps in the recipe. Straining the custard will give you a smoother texture, and cooling it in an ice bath will help it set and not separate.
|The custard was not as smooth as it could have been.|
|The bubbling syrup still had sugar crystals in it.|
|I was left with sugar granules after the water evaporated.|
Tip 4: To make molten sugar candy, make sure the sugar is completely dissolved in the water, and do not stir while heating, to avoid crystalisation.
|Making of pistachio praline.|
Tip 5: Make sure you store your praline in an airtight container, to stop it getting soft and sticky.
|Heart-shaped pastries: before and after baking, then brushed with rose jam and sprinkled with praline.|
Finally, it was time to assemble all the parts. Heating the rose petal jam made it runnier and easier to remove the flower petals, but I don't think I should have added water to it, because the praline did not stick very well to the pastry using such a thin "glue".
|Rose petal jam.|
|The squares in the middle got a bit squashed.|
Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event aimed at inspiring us to try new things. This month it is hosted by Marija from Palachinka.