You know what happens when you mindlessly grab a box of dried apricots at the market and stare at it once home? A few days later, you make a pudding. At least, that’s my reflex. When in doubt, make a pudding!
In the Lebanese kitchen, puddings are thickened with starch; gelatin is not used; so here is a pudding of apricots, pistachios and milk called muhallabiyeh in Arabic; with a caramel sculpture, for fun.
I am going to list the ingredients and explain the –extra easy– method of making a Lebanese pudding. You will never have to worry about eating something rubbery or heavy.
INGREDIENTS: For the apricot pudding
- 12 ounces of dried apricots
- one cup of sugar (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- a generous handful of pistachios ( can use pine nuts instead, or nothing!)
- 1 1/4 cup of cornstarch
For the milk pudding: (recipe can be multiplied)
- 2 generous cups of whole milk (or lower fat, if you like)
- 3 tablespoons of sugar (or more, to taste)
- 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
- flavoring: a teaspoon of orange blossom water, rose water, or vanilla; some crushed mastic if you like.
- Place the dried apricots in a bowl, cover them with water (one inch over the top of the fruits) and let them soak in the water for one or two days, refrigerated.
- Transfer the apricots and their water into a pot, add more water if needed and cook on a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes or until the apricots are soft ( check by piercing with a fork). While the apricots are simmering, add the sugar and add the lemon juice at the very end, stirring a bit.
- Transfer the apricots to a blender and puree for a minute or two until smooth. You should have 32 ounces or 500 ml.
- Retransfer to the pot, and heat the mixture; while it is heating, dilute the cornstarch in a cup of water. AS SOON as the apricot mixture starts steaming, add the cornstarch and armed with a wooden spoon or a whisk, start stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and place the pot on a flat surface; Take a large sieve and a large bowl and pour it into the sieve to strain it and get it as smooth as possible. Pat it with the spoon to help it through.
- Throw a handful of pistachios in the apricot mixture and stir to distribute them evenly. Set aside. If not using right away, you can keep it in the fridge for a couple days.
NOW YOU CAN WAIT TO MAKE THE MILK PUDDING UNTIL THE NEXT DAY OR THE DAY AFTER!
- Place the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat and add the sugar, stirring till melted.
- Dilute the cornstarch in a bit of milk or water. When the milk mixture starts steaming, add the cornstarch mixture and stir continuously until thickened. Add the flavorings at the end, stirring all the while.
- Pour the milk pudding through a strainer into a bowl (or easier yet, a bowl with a spout).
- Start dividing the milk pudding onto the apricot pudding bowls or verrines.
TO MAKE THE CARAMEL GRAFFITI: Recipe from Nick Malgieri, light desserts
- 1/3 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 cup of sugar
- parchment or wax paper as needed
- Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Stir and heat till all is dissolved. Use a brush dipped in water to go around the circumference of the pan to make sure no sugar remains stuck to the walls of the pan.
- Cook the syrup until the color turns golden-brown or amber.
- Remove from heat and to stop the cooking, place the pan in the sink in a little water; be careful, it will sputter! Leave it only a few seconds.
- Lay a large piece of parchment paper on a metal cookie sheet; using a spoon, take bits of caramel and thrown into the paper in an up-and-down motion, going one way and then the other way; sprinkle some nuts on top if desired.
- Let the caramel cool, then cut with scissors or your fingers the shape of your liking and insert in the pudding right before serving. The caramel will keep in a tight container in the fridge for a few hours or in a metal box for a few days.
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