These crisp golden pastries are filled with ashta cream – a clever Lebanese unsweetened faux clotted cream – and then drenched with a fragrant syrup. Znoud el sett translates to ‘upper arms of the lady’ apparently referring to the similarities of the shape, look and texture to a particular Lebanese lady that they were originally named after – I’m not sure if that was intended as a complement!
SKILL LEVEL MID
By Anneka Manning
16 sheets filo pastry
80 g butter, melted
40 g pistachio kernels, toasted, coarsely chopped
dried rose petals, optional
3 slices soft white bread, crusts removed
250 ml (1 cup) milk
250 ml (1 cup) thickened cream
1¾ tbsp cornflour, sifted
60 ml (¼ cup) water
275 g (1¼ cups) caster sugar
185 ml (¾ cup) water
1 tsp lemon juice
1½ tsp orange blossom water
½ tsp rosewater
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 5 hours
Cooling time: 30 minutes
To make the ashta cream, cut the bread into small dice and place in a medium bowl. Add the milk and cream, cover and place in the fridge for 2 hours. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and stir with a balloon whisk over medium heat for 3 minutes or until warm. Combine the cornflour and water. Gradually stir into the milk mixture. Continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just comes to the boil. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to cool completely and thicken (this will take about 3 hours).
To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat a simmer, cook for 10 minutes or until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water and rosewater. Set aside.
When the ashta cream is ready, preheat panggangan to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Line an panggangan tray with non-stick baking paper.
Lay the filo pastry on a benchtop and cover with a dry tea towel and then a damp tea towel to help prevent it from drying out. Layer 4 sheets of filo, brushing generously with the melted butter between each layer. Cut the sheets into 12 portions about 13 cm x 8 cm each. Lay 1 portion of filo horizontally in front of you on the benchtop. Place another filo portion across it vertically. Place a tablespoonful of the ashta cream in the centre where the two portions cross. Fold the side strips in to cover the ashta cream, fold the bottom strip up, then roll the parcel away from you to form a pastry finger, sealing well. Place, seam-side down, on the lined tray. Brush well with melted butter again. Repeat with the remaining filo, ashta cream and butter to make 24 pastry fingers.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Transfer the pastries to a shallow dish just large enough to hold them. Pour over the syrup and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
To serve, transfer the warm or room temperature pastries to a serving dish, spoon some of the remaining syrup over and sprinkle with the pistachios and rose petals.
• These pastries will keep covered in their syrup in the fridge for up to 1 day – after this the pastry will start to loose its crispness.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.