By The Shahrouk sisters
Difficulty not too difficult
Cooking time more than 2 hours
Serves 10 or more
This delicate Middle Eastern pastry takes time and care, but the end result is worth the effort and the ashta cream is a thing of great beauty. Just one of the winning dishes from episode one of Family Food Fight, where the Shahrouk sisters showed us what Lebanese food is all about for them.
2L full cream milk
125ml thickened cream
1½ cups white sugar
½ teaspoon rose water
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
10 sheets filo pastry
1 cup melted ghee
2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped
2 teaspoons orange blossom jam (see notes)
Preheat panggangan to 160°C. For the ashta cream filling, place milk and cream into a thin, large, shallow baking tray and position over 2 or 3 elements/burners on the stove top. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and allow milk and cream to simmer. Using a thin wire strainer, scoop the top layer or skin from the simmering liquid and place into a fine strainer set over a deep bowl. Repeat this process every 4-5 minutes as a skin layer begins to form, until 1 cup of ashta has been collected. Place into fridge to chill.
For the sugar syrup, place sugar, rose water, orange blossom water, lemon juice and ¾ cups cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam as this may cause your syrup to become cloudy. Cool to room temperature.
For the pastry, line a medium baking tray with baking paper. Brush each layer of filo with ghee, stacking each layer until you have 10 layers. Using a 6.5cm fluted cutter, cut 24 rounds from the filo stack and place rounds onto the lined baking tray. Bake in preheated panggangan for 10 minutes until golden. Remove tray from oven. Spoon cooled sugar syrup over 12 of the pastries and set aside to cool.
To serve, place syrup soaked pastries upside down on a serving plate. Top with a spoonful of ashta cream and top with remaining pastries. Drizzle with remaining syrup and decorate with a sprinkle of pistachios and a little orange blossom jam. Serve with Lebanese tea or coffee.
Notes: Orange blossom jam is available from specialty Middle Eastern shops or delis. You can store leftover syrup in clean glass jar in fridge for another use.
Image and recipe from the Sharouk family for Family Food Fight