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What Is Dondurma?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Dondurma is the Turkish word for "ice cream" and refers to a dessert that is made much like traditional ice cream except that it does not need to remain frozen once made and has a texture that is very chewy and substantial. The basic ingredients in dondurma are very similar to those used in standard frozen ice cream, except that two special ingredients, known as mastic and salep, also are added. The two ingredients cause a chemical reaction when frozen that forms a solid structure inside the ice cream, allowing it to maintain its shape even when held at room temperature. The dessert is very popular in Turkey and is sold in stores, out of street stalls and is even packaged commercially in grocery stores. When served, the dondurma is treated much like regular ice cream, with similar toppings and flavors such as chocolate, nuts and fruits.

The first distinctive ingredient in dondurma is mastic. This is a naturally occurring resin that precipitates from trees in the form of small, translucent droplets. The resin can be added to liquids to provide a gentle, sweet flavor and an aromatic, pine-like taste. The mastic melts into the ice cream before it is frozen and helps to develop the thick texture.

The important ingredient that makes dondurma unique is salep. This is the root of a type of orchid that grows wild in Turkey; it is dried and then ground down into a powder. This powder has the ability to store moisture and stop it from moving through a larger mixture. When the ice cream is frozen, the properties of the salep combine with the mastic and the natural moisture in the ice cream base. The result is a molecular structure that has a solid framework, inside of which is held the moisture of the ice cream, preventing it from melting.

The recipe for dondurma is just like an ice cream recipe, until the end. Cream, milk, sugar and flavoring are mixed together and heated. The mastic and salep are added, as well, and the entire mixture is allowed to cook for a time before being taken down to room temperature. The mixture is placed in a freezer or ice cream maker until it starts to freeze and solidify.

The salep and mastic ensure that the ice cream becomes very rubbery, resembling the consistency of taffy. At this point, the ice cream needs to be kneaded vigorously for a period of time to add air into the mixture and to stretch out and develop the molecules inside. When completed, the dondurma can be cut into slices with a knife or skillfully pulled with a stick and placed into a bowl or ice cream cone.

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