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Pistachio Ice Cream with Rose Water ~ Homemade & Heavenly

June 18th, 2013 3 comments

Arabian Ice Cream ~ Pistachio with Rose Waters

As the heat in Dubai soars, I crave ice cream.

Actually, I crave ice cream in all weather conditions, and as I lover of ice cream, one of my greatest food pleasures is making ice cream at home. In fact, my Cuisinart ice cream maker is my most-loved kitchen appliance.

And after much reflection, I’ve decided that my favorite flavor is Pistachio—greenish and nutty, exotic and subtle, crunchy yet silky. What could be more heavenly?

Pistachio Ice Cream w- Rose Water

According to David Lebovitz, there are two basic styles of ice cream:  (1) French-style, which is custard-based and made with egg yolks—smooth and creamy, but fussy to prepare, and (2) Philadelphia-style, a simple combination of milk, cream, and sugar, but no eggs—easier, but freezes a bit hard.

After going back and forth between those two styles, I’ve recently discovered a third, which is my new preferred way to make ice cream. This style requires no eggs, yet its texture is still creamy and smooth. Jeni Britton Bauer is the creator of this new technique, explained in her book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home.

Pistachio Ice Cream & Rose Water

Basically her method is this: Add a little cream cheese, cornstarch, and light corn syrup, and you can achieve wonderful creamy ice cream without having to mess around with an egg-yolk custard.

Below is my recipe, using Jeni Britton Bauer’s technique.

Pistachio Ice Cream with Rose WaterPistachio Ice Cream ~ Ingredients

          Makes about 1 quart

1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

3 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2¼ cup whole milk

1 cup (200 ml) cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1 Tablespoon rose water

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Spread HALF of the pistachios on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 4-5 minutes until fragrant, turning once—don’t over-toast or the pistachios will lose their green hue. Remove from oven and pulverize in a blender until pistachios form a coarse paste. Add a few drops of water if necessary. Transfer to medium bowl and whisk with cream cheese and salt until smooth.

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Pistachio Paste

2. In tiny bowl, mix cornstarch with 2 Tablespoons milk until smooth. Set aside.

3. Prepare a large bowl of ice cubes and water to use later for cooling the ice cream base.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring to rolling boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually mix in the cornstarch/milk mixture. Bring back to boil and cook, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Making the base

5. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the pistachio paste. Whisk until smooth.

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Mixing the base

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Whisking the milk in

Pour into a clean glass pitcher or large Ziploc bag and submerge (seal Ziplock first) into the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice if necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Cooling the base

6. Transfer ice cream base to refrigerator and chill completely—for about 6 hours or overnight.

7. To freeze the ice cream, be sure to start with the machine’s base that is completely frozen. (Keep in freezer for at least 24 hours.) Turn on the ice cream machine and gradually pour in the ice cream base through the top of the machine. Leave to spin until thick and creamy, about 25 minutes.

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Pour into Machine

8. While the ice cream is freezing, get the following ready: the rose water, the remaining ½ cup pistachio nuts (chopped), and a storage container with airtight lid, which can be pre-chilled in the freezer.

9. Just before the ice cream is ready, add the rose water to the machine.

Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Cuisinart Machine

10. Pack the ice cream into the container, layering it with the pistachio nuts. Seal and freeze in the back of your freezer for at least 4 hours. Pistachio Ice Cream ~ Container

11. Garnish with more pistachios and an extra sprinkle of rose water, if desired. Enjoy.

Pistachio Ice Cream with Rose Water

What is your favorite homemade ice cream or pistachio treat?

Visit to the Baklava Factory ~ Al Samadi Sweets

June 1st, 2013 22 comments

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava_

Who can resist baklava?

Not me. Nor could I resist this “Baklava Factory Tour” put on by Arva Ahmed of Frying Pan Adventures and the American Women’s Association of Dubai.

We visited Al Samadi Sweets, a bakery from Lebanon which dates back to 1872. Their Dubai factory (located in Qusais) didn’t actually feel like a factory. All the individual pastries are made by hand (with a little industrial help as you shall see).

Al Samadi Sweets

These pastries supply Dubai’s hotels and restaurants. So, if you live in Dubai, you may have eaten pastries from Al Samadi.

The Baklava Room

The Baklava Room is the heart of Al Samadi factory.

In case you have yet to experience this Middle Eastern/Mediterranean pastry, baklava is a delicate pastry made from layers of filo dough, a filling of nuts, lots of clarified butter and a generous dousing of scented simple syrup. It’s a flaky, nutty, lick-your-fingers type of sweet.  

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava

The pastry has a long, complicated history. Long story, short (and some will disagree): the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is credited for creating the original baklava, handmade with its distinctive countless layers.

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava_

The Baklava at Al Samadi is baked in enormous trays. This should give you an idea of the size of the trays and the size of the operation.

Al Samadi Sweets trays

In case you’re wondering, the baklava at Al Samadi is baked with 18 layers of filo dough. This machine flattens the filo pastry dough into very thin layers, and it rolls many layers at once.

Filo Dough

Al Samadi Sweets  Filo dough machine_

When the baklava comes out of the oven, it’s drenched with scented simple syrup from this enormous watering can.

Al Samadi Sweets  Simple Syrup can_

The Ma’amoul Room

Ma’amoul is a festive little pastry stuffed with either dates or nuts and served on Easter and Eid throughout the Middle East. In the Ma’amoul Room, men were busy stuffing and shaping little pastries with dates.

Al Samadi Sweets  Ma'amoul makers

These tiny ma’amoul were formed by hand. Here they are after after baking.

Al Samadi Sweets Mini Ma'amoul

Naturally, we got to sample these pastries along the way.

Al Samadi Sweets  Ma'amoul samples_

However, usually ma’amoul is made with various wooden molds. The type of filling—either walnuts, pistachios, or dates—will determine the shape of the mold. These ma’amoul are ready to go in the oven.

Al Samadi Sweets Tray of Ma'amoul_

The ma’amoul makers at Al Samadi use the same type of hand-carved wooden molds that I use at home.

Ma'amoul Molds_

The Kunafe Room

Truth be told, my favorite room was the kunafe room. This is because Kunafe Nabulsia is my favorite of Arab sweets. I can’t resist the gooey sweet cheese between the shredded soft-yet-crispy pastry, all saturated in scented simple syrup. Here’s a photo of my own homemade Kunafe Nabulsia.

A slice of kunafe nablusia

We got to see the kunafe pastry being made in very long very thin threads. First, the batter is poured down a funnel.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough funnel_

Then the batter comes out in threads and cooked on a large hot surface.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough machine_

Then it’s gathered and folded and ready for assembly into various kunafe pastries.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough wheel_Al Samadi Sweets  Kunafe dough maker_

Al Samadi Sweets  Kunafe dough making_

There are little “bird nests” filled with pistachios and made with kunafe pastry.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe birdnests_

We watched as one of the kunafe chefs assembled kunafe with the crumbled akkawi cheese, the sweet cheese used in many Arab sweets.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe assembly_

Lebanese Breakfast

As a final touch, Salim, the factory manager, offered us a special Lebanese breakfast—something I’ve never had before. It was a slab of kunafe pastry shoved into an Arab bread and doused with simple syrup. What a way to start your day!

Al Samadi Sweets Lebanese breakfast_

Last Stop: Al Samadi Sweet Shop

Our final stop on our tour was the actual Al Samadi Sweet Shop, located on Muraqqabat Street, where all the pastries are beautifully arranged and presented.

Al Samadi Sweets shop_

Al Samadi Sweets Yum_

Bake it yourself!

Rest assured, it is possible to bake these sweets in your own home kitchen. Please check out my step-by-step recipes for some of the pastries presented here.

Recipe: Kunafe Nabulsia ~ The Queen of Arab Sweets

Recipe: Ma’amoul ~ Date-filled Eid Pastries

Recipe: Nut-filled Ma’amoul ~ Easier than you think

Take a Tour

If you live in Dubai or are visiting, consider taking your own food tour with Frying Pan Adventures. I can’t say enough good things about Arva’s “food walks” featuring foods from the Middle East, North Africa and India. She is planning evening iftar tours in Dubai during the month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, read about my last tour with Frying Pan Adventures: Dubai Food Tour ~ North African Food Safari!

Questions: What is your favorite Arab Pastry? Have you taken a Frying Pan Tour?

Mujaddara ~ Palestinian Lentils & Rice

October 19th, 2012 37 comments

When my husband and I were starving university students, we ate this dish all the time—mostly because it was cheap and filling. Then at some point we stopped. We forgot all about lentils and rice for many years, as we graduated on to more “sophisticated” foods.

Recently, in an attempt to bring some vegetarian dinners to our table, I re-discovered mujaddara, so tasty, nutritious, and economical. When I presented the humble platter to my husband, he was surprised and thrilled—as though I was serving up a whole lamb or some rare delicacy.

He raved about the dish to the kids, how amazing and delicious it was—the fried onions over the cumin-flavored rice with a touch of yogurt. I suspect the taste unlocked some sentimental memories of his childhood in Palestine, where simple foods ruled the kitchen.

Lentils & rice is a classic Arab combination that goes back to medieval times. I’ve seen it prepared many ways—from a rice dish with just a bit of lentils to mostly lentils with a touch of rice. As for me, I like to make it half/half, a cup of each.

I also add a chopped up carrot. Though non-traditional, the carrot adds color and interest to an otherwise plain-looking dish.

Finally, do not skimp on the onion. More than a garnish, the onions flavor the dish in such a way that you’ll find yourself and a fellow diner fighting over the last remaining bits of onion. If you love onions, I suggest frying up three onions or even four. Trust me on this.

Mujaddara ~ Serves 4-6

1 cup brown lentils

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, chopped finely

1 cup rice

1 teaspoon cumin

1½ teaspoons salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 medium onions (more if you love onions)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. Start boiling some water for use later.
  2. Wash lentils and put in large cooking pot with 2 cups cold water. Add carrots and garlic. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. While lentils cook, start soaking the rice. Place rice in heat-resistant bowl, cover with boiling water and stir. Soak rice for about 15 minutes.
  4. Drain rice well and mix with the cooked lentils and 1½ cups hot water. Add cumin, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes or longer.
  5. While rice and lentils cook, halve the onions vertically and slice thinly. Fry onions in the olive oil until golden brown.
  6. Transfer the mujaddara to a platter and top with the fried onion. Serve with a Simple Arabic Salad and Yogurt Cucumber Salad or simply plain yogurt.

Note: If you prefer a more traditional mujaddara, omit the carrot and reduce the hot water from 1½ cups to 1 cup in Step 4.

Questions: How do you prepare Mujaddara? What are your memories of this dish?