For those of you that have been following my blog, you know that one of my goals on my channel was to showcase small business owners, as restaurants and other food service place have been hit particularly hard by Covid restrictions. Here in California, political restrictions have destroyed 1 in 3 businesses!
If you saw my episode on Samer of Beit Rima Restaurant last year, would you believe he made it to the Food Network show called Chopped?! I am so excited for him, and in the spirit of celebrating small business owners, another story touched me deeply. A baker named Maya dreamed of having her own bakery. She was terrified to start her own business, but when the opportunity came, she seized the chance to make her dream come true, by taking over Oasis Baklava in Sunnyvale California. This woman is a dynamo, churning out baklava, buttery shortbread ghraybeh, sesame pistachio barazek cookies, kunafa, and warbat, the subject of today’s recipe.
Sometimes the translation of Arabic words to English doesn’t work out so well. Take the popular dessert called Warbat, pronounced warr-bot. Most people might envision a warrior bat, angry and ready to fight. In reality, warbat refers to a buttery, flaky and rich turnover filled with a mildly sweet custard. This pastry is then drizzled in fragrant lemon and rose syrup then sprinkled with pistachios. While this pastry is popular in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, there are many variations sold throughout the middle east.
You can consider warbat the triangular sibling of baklava, only instead of phyllo pastry filled with nuts, the pastry is stuffed with a sweet cream or custard called “ashta” which has a consistency similar to clotted cream. Therefore this dessert is also referred to as “Warbat bil Ashta.” Like baklava, the phyllo layers have that rich brown butter flavor, though melted ghee is traditionally used to coat the dough.
This rich dessert is usually served for special occasions like weddings, showers, and holidays like Ramadan. The perfect accompaniment to this sweet and decadent treat is unsweetened cardamom tea or a strong Arabic coffee. I lived for the special occasions when my mother would make this sweet treat. Taking my fork and cutting through those buttery layers of dough to reveal the sweet cream inside never got old!
In the video below, watch how Maya shares her innovative recipe and techniques for how to make the ultimate warbat:
For ashta (cream) filling:
- 1 Gallon heavy cream
- 1 Gallon milk
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- Dash salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
Whisk the ingredients in a saucepan first, then put over medium heat and whisk for 10 minutes or until thick. If the mixture is too watery, add 2 more tbsp of cornstarch to a small amount of milk and add it to the rest to thicken it up. Store the cream mixture in a bowl, and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
- 18 Sheets phyllo dough
- 1 cup melted ghee
Cut the phyllo sheets into 12 even squares, using a ruler to make things even. Using an ice cream scooper, put an ice cream sized scoop of the ashta into each square. Fold over like a turnover, pressing down on the edges to seal. Arrange the 4 of the turnovers 4 to make a large square. Repeat with the rest of the turnovers to make two more large squares. Pour melted ghee evenly over each one, then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp orange blossom water
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, on high heat until boiling. Lower the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until syrupy, you want the syrup to coat the spoon when it’s done. Add the lemon juice and orange blossom water and let cool before pouring over warbat pastry. After baking, pour the cooled syrup over the hot pastry, top with optional ground pistachios and serve immediately.