Lebanese cream (Ashta)

May 30, 2010  • 

 

Ashta, our Lebanese cream is the foundation for all pastries; yet it does not contain cream.

Sure, there was a time when ashta was pure cream. Nowadays, it is made with milk (frequently powdered milk in Lebanon), fresh American-style  toast and flavorings!


The result: a clotted cream that tastes fresh and light, without any cream

Such is the genius of Lebanese pastry chefs.

You can make it with powdered milk, milk (whole or lowfat), half-and-half, or a combo of  milk and whipping cream (which is usually my choice).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of milk (I prefer to use half-and-half) (1/2 milk and half whipping cream)
  • 3 pieces of American-style white bread (like Wonder bread)
  • 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch (15 g.)
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water, 1 teaspoon of rose water
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar (optional: if you are serving the dessert with a syrup, don’t add sugar to ashta)

METHOD:

  1. Remove the crust from the bread and cut the bread in dice. Place the bread in a saucepan with the milk.

(at this point, you can let the bread soak in the milk all day in the fridge or a few hours)

  1. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water.
  2. Heat the milk and bread stirring from time to time,  add the sugar (if using) and when the mixture starts steaming, add the cornstarch mixture. Stir continuously for two minutes, until the mixture thickens; add the rose and orange blossom water and remove from the heat.

  1. Let it cool and store  in the fridge a few hours before using to let it thicken completely.  The “cream” (ashta) will keep a few days.

NOTE: All Lebanese creams and puddings are thickened with cornstarch (or wheat starch); sometimes, you will find that the cornstarch was not sufficient and the cream or pudding is not getting thick; it is OK to add more cornstarch, starting with one tablespoon, diluted in a bit of liquid to get it thicker, and it should then thicken within one minute.


Comments

123 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Jojo says:

    I love ashta but had no idea how to re-create the wonder in the states. So excited to give this a try!

  2. Ivy says:

    That is genius!

  3. Katerina says:

    I will definitely give it a try to taste it. Is it ok if I use plain toast bread? Because in Greece we do not have wonder bread. It must taste uniquely.

    • Joumana says:

      Katerina, any type of white soft bread is OK, just remove the crust, and cut the bread on little pieces.

  4. Nadji says:

    une crème pour moi.
    A bientôt.

  5. KennyT says:

    I heard that Lebanese pastry chefs are great, now I know why!

  6. doggybloggy says:

    I am definitely making this – thanks for the recipe and the new cuisine

  7. Angie's Recipes says:

    A very unique cream!

  8. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    A great recipe to have on hand for those times you don’t have cream or don’t want to use cream. But a loaf of Wonder Bread would last me a year! I didn’t realize that one uses orange flower water and rosewater together. Is this common?

    • Joumana says:

      Sarah: it is very common in Lebanese pastry to use both rose and orange blossom water; you will find it combined in puddings and all creams.

  9. Lentil Breakdown says:

    Wow, I learn so much from you! Never heard of this. The bread part is fascinating.

  10. Grapefruit says:

    wow, I never knew this is how it was made. Thanks for sharing, will now look up a recipe that uses this so I can try it out!

  11. Cherine says:

    I love ashta… yours look perfect 🙂

  12. theUngourmet says:

    Yum! I can imagine the rose and orange flower water add such a fragrant and delicious touch to this wonderful cream! Great photos!

  13. Sook says:

    Mmm… I am sitting here drooling… Seriously, I would love to try this Labanese cream!

  14. sab says:

    very interseting recipe actually

  15. radia says:

    crème vraiment économique, est ce que on peut l’utiliser pour une tarte, bisou joumana

    • Joumana says:

      Radia, oui seulement tu dois y mettre suffisamment de maizena, c’est tout! Elle sera bien épaisse avec 3 cuillères, sinon ajoute un peu plus pour la quantité donnée. Bisous!

  16. Faith says:

    I can’t believe how much it looks like clotted cream without containing any cream at all! The white bread in this recipe is a really brilliant idea. I need to make this! 🙂

  17. kim says:

    I see this on the menu a lot, but never it was bread based. Thanks for sharing!

  18. FOODESSA says:

    Well…if I didn’t have a clue what Ashta was before…once again, Joumana has enlightened me.
    Now, on another little note…for those who may be turned off by using cornstarch like I am…I discovered and experimented with a great substitute called ‘Arrowroot’ powder…easily found at natural food stores as well as some large grocery stores. The ratio is 1:1…no headaches of conversion ;o) I hope I didn’t over-step with my suggestion 😉
    Thanks for this very easy recipe…I might just integrate it with making some Italian based desserts.
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  19. byba says:

    Bonsoir,

    belle créme bien faite!, bonne fête à toi et à bientôt.

    bises

    byba

  20. fimère says:

    j’ai déjà essayé cette crème et je la trouve délicieuses comme tous
    bonne soirée

  21. elra says:

    Yummy cream. I’d love to put this on top of fruit salad. I suppose that will work as well?

  22. marcellina says:

    Thanks for visiting and your kind comments! Your blog is very interesting and so is this cream. Pure cream is sometimes too rich for me so this would be great to try.

  23. Reeni says:

    This is unlike any cream recipe I’ve ever seen! Very unique! I can’t wait to give it a try.

  24. Carol says:

    That looks very good! Interesting about the no cream, and bread in the recipe. I have to try it!

  25. A Canadian Foodie says:

    I am definitely going to make this as soon as my creme fraiche is gone. (Just made a batch for weekend company.) This is a recipe that sounds really delicious, and is the perfect place to use that white bread substitute (big grin). I always appreciate your teaching me about your cuisine… not only because it is delicious, but because I can take your ideas and use them so many places within my own pantry.
    🙂
    Big hug,
    Valerie

  26. Sushma Mallya says:

    Such a nice recipe, i would love to try this

  27. noobcook says:

    yours is healthy “cream” … love the idea of it being light and low-fat 🙂

  28. Anna says:

    It sounds great, and creame fraiche is hard to find sometimes. the tabouleh gazpacho looks delicious, what a great idea.:-)

  29. citronetvanille says:

    Oh elle est incroyable cette crème!je suis tres intriguée je dois dire surtout avec le pain de mie, finalement rien à voir avec une crème patissière, ni chantilly…juste une crème ingénieuse des chefs libanais qui ressemble a un pudding peut-être? Donc elle se consomme avec des fruits ou plutôt sur des toasts comme sur la photo?

    • Joumana says:

      Non en fait elle se consomme avec toutes les douceurs arabes; je vais en faire au fur et à mesure; mais on peut la manger comme on veut bien sûr! moi je l’aime comme ça entre deux biscuits!

  30. Patty Price says:

    I’m curious to try this! Thanks for sharing your recipe for Lebanese cream, it looks tasty and I’m sure delicious on many things, I’m thinking fresh fruit and cake.

  31. betty says:

    wow- this is just so amazing i had no idea it was this easy! thanks for sharing xx

  32. MaryMoh says:

    What a great idea! I would love to try this…a healthier version. Thanks for sharing.

  33. zoom yummy says:

    Wow, that looks really interesting. I’d so like to taste. 🙂 Petra

  34. grace says:

    this is extraordinarily unique and delightful! right off the top of my head, i can think of at least 20 uses for it. 🙂

  35. Jen_from_NJ says:

    Cream without cream – that’s great! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Rajani says:

    superb joumana, i’ve never had this before. but it looks simple and fantastic and cream free substitute for cream! chilled ashta with frozen berries thats what i’ll be eating soon 🙂

  37. sophia says:

    Gosh…wouldn’t I love to try this!! I didn’t know the Lebanese had their own cream like that.

  38. Rachana Kothari says:

    Cream without Cream… thats unique !

    Have a nice day, Jou!

  39. kristy says:

    Oh my goodness, I think this is awesome! Had never thought of making it this way before. You’re so cool! Thanks so much for sharing. Have a wonderful day!
    Cheers, Kristy

  40. Barbara says:

    Ashta looks divine, Joumana! How about with fruit? Looks like a perfect match to me.

  41. Velva says:

    This looks amazing. What a creative way to produce a cream like quality without cream. I would really enjoy this as a pastry cream or just on my bread.

  42. peter says:

    Some of the most enjoyable recipes are the simple ones, made from necessity and from those rare breed of cooks that can create wonders in the kitchen. Add Ashta cream into the pantheon of such recipes.

  43. Kristen says:

    I am so glad I found your site. You are opening an entire world of cooking to me.

  44. Louise says:

    Intriguing recipe Joumana. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate the concept into National Dairy Month which is in June…Let me see, make your own home made cream minus the cream…Ingenious! I’m wondering whether the yeast in the bread has anything to do with it “setting up” or is it simply the cornstarch? Whichever, it looks heavenly!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing…

  45. SYLVIA says:

    There are kind of dessert you think you need to avoid but not this. It is absolutely delicious, smooth, velvety. We always make some sort of ashta dessert for our several get together, and it its always a hit. It makes a great impact and everyone devours it.I never knew you need to add bread in the cream, Joumana does the bread melts, or stays lumpy in the cream. I tried the low fat version don’t work as well, you need a little richness from the fat.

    • Joumana says:

      @Sylvia: the bread bits will melt but it will give texture to the cream; I agree with you a little fat is always better; my choice is 1 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of whipping cream.

  46. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    I remember the first time I had ashta-I wondered about it! I had no idea what was in it. It’s gorgeous and unusual! 😀

  47. kouky says:

    je ne savais pas qu’on mettait du pain de mie dedans, c’est vrai que ça doit donner une texture plus ferme!! merci Joumana et bonne journée! bises! kouky

  48. joudie kalla says:

    Joumana, this looks so good. I have never made Ashta before but always love to eat it 🙂
    I am definitely going to make this. It looks sooooooooo Good!

  49. Amber @Almost Vegan says:

    How interesting…if this can be made with milk powder, then I’m sure I could make this with powdered soymilk!

  50. Kristen says:

    that is an extremely interesting “cream”. Thanks for the informative post now I know how it is made. It has been quite a while since I last had some, now maybe I will have to make it myself.

  51. Mimi says:

    This is so intriguing, light and simple to make.
    Mimi

  52. Viviane @ Taste-Buds says:

    Je n’aurais jamais cru que c’était si simple de faire l’Ashta! Est-ce que ça ira avec du pain blanc libanais?

    • Joumana says:

      Viviane: il faut utiliser du pain de mie; c’est la mie tendre qui donne la texture souhaitée de crème épaisse.

  53. oum mouncifrayan says:

    une belle découverte pour moi que je note!! merci

  54. Alina says:

    Amazing!! But I’m pretty sure they sell no rose or orange blossom water here 🙁

  55. Felix says:

    Yeah, it’s good, very useful, thanks 🙂

  56. OysterCulture says:

    I am so intrigued by this delicious sounding dish, I cannot wait to try it. I have never heard of adding bread to cream like this, and of course your photos just make it all the more tempting.

  57. Elizabeth says:

    Hello Joumana,

    I was wondering what made you modify your earlier ashta recipe? This new recipe has more bread and cornstarch — is that because you now use skim milk instead of half-and-half?

    http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/2009/06/clotted-cream-homemade/

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Elizabeth: I simply tried it again and it did not set enough so I added more cornstarch to be sure it got thick enough. I still use half-and-half though, it just tastes better.

  58. sola says:

    i personnally find you dont need to go through all that. just bring milk to a ‘just-boil’ and add some lemon, or any other acid, vinegar for ex, i prefer lemon (just less than half a lemon would do for 1 L of milk). then the milk will start to curd, so you have to stir a bit to curd it up to the fullest. remember the higher the milk temperature, the less acid you will need. and the less the temperature, the more acid. you can use any type of fresh milk, pasturized or not. then you just have to strain the curd with a cloth for about 30min depending on the texture you want it to have.
    then you have your ashta! (or ricotta, or paneer, a lot of cultures used this kind of curding) yummy and perfet. you can use it for salty of sugary treat. it is at this point that you can blend in any flavor (rose, orange blossom…)
    no need for corn starch, or industrial white bread with all the ikky stuff in it! you say cream is what is heavy on the stomach, i say chemicals and starches is what upsets ur body!

    try it and you’ll never go back! promise.

    • Joumana says:

      @Sola: Thanks for you valuable input! I have tried this technique once but thought that it required a lot more milk than I wanted to use and the other technique is easier for smaller quantities.

  59. farah says:

    do u mean two cups of powder milk or dissolved milk?and can we use the fresh milk?

  60. suzy says:

    hi i will try ur recipe and see how it goes,im lebanese and have a few ways off making it but want something to put on fruit cocktails thats not to heavy.

  61. rosie says:

    Hi, to use corn flour instead of bread, how many cups should i add??! Thank you!!

  62. Amany says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I am trying to make a common lebanese desert that is called ashta with honey. They usually seve it with slices of a banana and a little ground pistachios on top. I wanted to know if you know how to make it.

    • Joumana says:

      @Amany: Amany it is just ashta with honey and slices of bananas; there are two ways to make ashta; the long way is by boiling the milk very slowly until it forms a crust on top (the ashta) that you remove and put aside; the other way, is this recipe; then you simply serve it with honey on the side.

  63. amany says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Thanks for the clarification. However, I believe that the desert also has semolina in it. How would I incorporate that to the ashta bil asal recipe?

  64. Amany says:

    Hi Joumana,
    Thanks for the clarification. To my understanding the ashta bil assal recipe has semolina in it. I would like to know how to incorporate the semolina into the recipe. Using your recipe, how much semolina could I add to maintain a good texture.

  65. Margaret says:

    Today at our one local Lebanese restaurant we had a dessert they called ashta. It was a cream filled puffpasty which looked like spanakopita. It was delicious. Do you have a specific recipe for that. Would love to try them at home. Next time we are going to try Kenafi.

    • Joumana says:

      @Margaret: I have posted several with ashta, the one you are referring too might be what is called here sha3ebeyate, which is made with phyllo; the custard inside is made with milk and semolina; and it is doused in an orange blossom syrup after baking; it is served in triangles; is that the one you are referring to? (there are many others which use phyllo and ashta, one is shaped like a finger and deep-fried and is called znood al-sit).

  66. Anthony says:

    hey thanks for the recipe and everything! i tried it using powdered milk + whipping cream but it didnt work 🙁 it remained liquidy and tastes like ” mehlabiyye ” :/ can u help me please ? what did i do wrong ?

    • Joumana says:

      @Anthony: two things are important: start adding cornstarch when you see it stays liquidy; add the cornstarch when the mixture is still steaming. dilute the cornstarch in tap water first otherwise it will clump. Add one tablespoon then add more if it still does not thicken. Also with this recipe, the mixture will thicken as it cools and even more when you leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours or longer. another way is instead of adding cornstarch you can mix it with some ricotta cheese, starting with 1/2 cup and increasing to one cup. This is going to work.

    • Joumana says:

      @Anthony: two things are important: start adding cornstarch when you see it stays liquidy; add the cornstarch when the mixture is still steaming. dilute the cornstarch in tap water first otherwise it will clump. Add one tablespoon then add more if it still does not thicken. Also with this recipe, the mixture will thicken as it cools and even more when you leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours or longer. another way is instead of adding cornstarch you can mix it with some ricotta cheese, starting with 1/2 cup and increasing to one cup. If you are still having problems, let me know.

  67. Anthony Haykal says:

    hi thanks alot for the recipe and everything 😀 i tried it using powdered milk + whipping cream but it didnt work as expected it remained liquidy :/ can u help please ? what did i do wrong ?

    • Joumana says:

      @Anthony: How much powdered milk did you use? Also if you see that it stays liquidy, start adding more cornstarch; dilute one tablespoon in a little water or milk and start adding it while stirring; add the cornstarch while the mixture is steaming. IN about one minute it should thicken; if it doesnt, add more cornstarch until it does. Good luck.

  68. Zohair says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I followed the instructions that you had provided above and thought that everything had worked out well, the mixture thickened up nicely when I added the corn starch mixed in the water.

    I put the now thickened mixture into the fridge to cool down and thicken properly, as you had instructed. However when I took the mixture out a couple of hours later, it had congealed into a solid mass. I’m thinking that I may have added too much corn starch but not completely sure as I followed the 3 tablespoons mixed in a 1/4 cup of water, as you had recommended.

    For the milk, I used 1 cup of full-fat milk and 1 cup of whipping cream. Any thoughts on what could have gone wrong and how I could fix this?

    Thank you,

    Zohair

    • Joumana says:

      @Zohair: There was too much cornstarch; here is what i’d do to fix this: I would put the cream back in a saucepan on very gentle heat and add more milk or water, 1/2 cup. If you feel like the consistency is right, it is loosening up, great, if not add one or two more tablespoons. then transfer it to the bowl and let it cool. Let me know if you can if that takes care of it. So sorry about this misshap. I read an earlier recipe I posted a couple of years prior and had used only 1 piece of toast; I am going to re-test it this week. Will mail you the result.

  69. Zohair says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Thanks for getting back to me. Unfortunately I no longer have that batch, I didn’t know what to do with it so I decided that it would be best to start from scratch.

    Next time round I’ll use 2 tablespoons of corn starch as opposed to the 3, better for it to be more liquid and I can thicken it up rather than the other way round.

    I’m thinking about going in with 2 pieces of toast instead of 3 but I’ll hold off until you re-test your old recipe.

    Also you don’t need to apologize, this was my first time using corn starch so I was expecting something or the other to go wrong.

    Thank you,

    Zohair

    • Joumana says:

      @Zohair: so glad to hear you are not mad! I test every single recipe I post (except for one, the Abbas cookies, I just posted the recipe from Chef Ramzi, and it was a bad one). sometimes, though, mistakes slip up. I am testing it today, so I will send you an e-mail tonight or tomorrow; I also found an older recipe in my archives (on the blog) tested a year earlier in which I used less toast and less starch!

  70. Mama's Lebanese Kitc says:

    Hi Joumana – thank you for a wonderful and easy recipe for ashta. I’m wondering if you’ve tried making Ashta the old fashioned way. I remember that raw milk would be boiled, then lemon juice is added to make it clot, then the rose water/orange blossom water is added and then the clotted milk is scooped from the top. Is this what you know about it? I wonder if I’m mixed up between the Arisheh and Ashta recipe… nevertheless this is such a feast!!

    • Joumana says:

      @Mama’s Lebanese kitchen: I am in the process of investigating all of this; everybody I have talked to here makes ashta like this (with the breadcrumbs) or buys it from al-rasheedi or entabli or pastry shops like hallab. I will let you know.

  71. Zohair says:

    Hi, it’s me again. First of all, my most sincere apologies. I realize now where I had messed up with my attempt at ashta. I had completely misread your recipe the first time round and added way too much corn starch (3 tablespoons instead of the 1 you had recommended). I’m going to give this recipe a shot again because nobody else seems to have the same problem as me.

    I also found the older recipe that you had mentioned (http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/2009/06/clotted-cream-homemade/) so I have another method to try if I can’t get this to work.

    Thank you so much for being willing to help out a novice ashta maker. I will let you know how this batch turns out complete with pictures (if it’s a success).

    • Joumana says:

      @Zohair: Great! I have such a busy week but as soon as possible I will try it myself as well, since it is going to be included in the cookbook I need to make 100% sure it works. By the way, you can always go the easy route, and just use ricotta cheese flavored with mazaher. I saw a recipe here in the back of a can of sweetened condensed milk for ashta in which you add water and a lot of cornstarch, so that is another option too; the breadcrumbs give it that clotted texture. I also would like to include a link to a recipe for atayef bel-ashta posted by a Syrian/French blogger who makes her ashta with whipping cream, milk, semolina and mascarpone or ricotta; it sounds and looks delicious; her blog is in French though so I could translate it (or google!)http://parisalep.com/2013/02/14/atayef-assafiri-mini-crepes-orientales/

  72. Lebanese Kitchen says:

    Hi Joumana – I tried making the REAL ashta last night after getting an older recipe from mom and found it to be real simple. The texture as well as the flavor was almost identical to what I remember real ashta to be from the Hallab in Tripoli. What I did was basically gently bringing half/half to a boil, then adding a bit of rose water/orange blossom water and immediately squirt a bit of lemon juice in it.. the lemon makes the milk clot almost instantly so I used a spatula with holes to collect the clotted milk and place it in a separate strainer.. the whole thing took less than 15 minutes.. i let it cool then placed in fridge and bam.. I also tried a variation of your recipe and liked it too.

  73. sonia says:

    I like to know total calories for this great dessert

  74. shatha says:

    Thank u 4 all the recipes. I have a quick question is this ashta recipe enough to fill 1 pkg of Ousmanliye or do I need to double the quantity? Thank u.

    • Joumana says:

      @Shatha: How much ousmaliye do you have in the package? is it one pound or more? My guess is you would need to double the quantity.

  75. shatha says:

    Yes it’s 1lb so I’m going to double the quantity…..thank you.

  76. Coco says:

    I’ve been researching how to make halawet el jibn and just learned about ashta. It’s such an old fashioned method with the white bread. I love it!

  77. Dee says:

    God Bless you for sharing, thank you

  78. Colette says:

    Hello I’ve been looking for a recipe for semolina cake with ashta cream baked inside. I ate it a couple of times and the place I eat it from will not share the recipe Does anyone know what the name of this is and also have the recipe?

    • Joumana says:

      @Colette: It is called maamoul madd bel ashta; I have this recipe in my upcoming cookbook. It will be released in early September.

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