[Photograph: Max Falkowitz] Mahlab is primarily used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern breads and pastries, but there's no reason to limit it to those applications. It works surprisingly well with baking spices common in most pantries, like nutmeg and cinnamon....
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Here's another one of those spices that makes you wonder how people got the idea to eat it. Mahlab is a powder made from the seeds of the St. Lucy's cherry, found in different parts of the Mediterranean, that requires drying and cracking open rock-hard cherry pits. But if you've ever had a dessert made with whole roasted cherries, where the pit imparts an inimitable depth of flavor, it's easy to see why people go through the trouble.