Servings : Makes 20 pieces
These cute sweet cream-filled pasteries are a staple in many middle-eastern households, especially as an Iftar treat during the Holy month of Ramadhan. Znoud means 'upper arm' and these decadent treats are playfully called Znoud el Sit (ladies' upper arm) in honour of plump ladies' creamy upper arms.
Ingredients for the Cream Filling (Ashta)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup whipping cream (or any cream that you have on hand)
- 3 slices slices white bread, edges trimmed off
- 2 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour or custard powder, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp finely crushed almonds (optional)
Ingredients for Sugar Syrup
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp orange blossom water or a few saffron strands
- 1/2 tsp rose water or vanilla essence
- Fresh white bread slices (you can also use phyllo sheets)
- sealing paste made from flour and water (quarter cup of each)
- Ghee or oil for deep frying (you can mix the two)
- 1/4 cup pistachios, roughly crushed
- 1/4 cup almonds, roughly crushed or sliced
If you have access to the canned Ashta cream (a sort of thick clotted cream) then you can just buy and use that instead of making it from scratch.
First prepare the Cream Filling/Ashta. Trim the edges off the 3 bread slices and tear up the bread into small cubes. Put these in a bowl. Pour the cream and milk over the bread and mix. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour just to help the bread soak and soften some more.
Put the milky bread mixture into a pan, add the 1 tbsp of powdered almonds and place on medium heat, keep stirring. Once it begins heating up add the cornflour/water mixture and continue stirring until the ashta thickens. Turn off the heat, transfer the ashta into a bowl and allow to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. It will continue thickening as it cools.
Next prepare the sugar syrup by mixing the sugar and water in a small saucepan and placing on the heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then allow it to come to a gentle boil. Add the lemon juice and let it keep simmering for about 10 minutes until the syrup thickens slightly. Finally add the flavourings of your choice and turn off the heat.
If you are using bread slices, make sure they are very very soft and fresh to ensure they do not crack when rolling.
Trim the edges of each bread slice and flatten it out using a rolling pin. Apply the sealing paste on both of the long sides and on one of the shorter sides of the slice. Add about half a tablespoon of the ashta/filling near the remaining short side of the slice and then gently roll and seal. You can dip your fingertips in a bit of water and press the edges to make sure it is properly sealed. Do not put too much filling or else it will end up oozing out or leaking during shaping or frying. Set aside on a tray. Keep going until all are done.
Cover the tray with cling film and put the pastries in the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours to solidify. This helps ensure the bread dries up a little thereby it will soak less oil during frying.
When ready to fry, warm the syrup lightly (not too hot, just warm) and have it ready. Heat the oil or ghee, then add the rolls a few at a time, seal side down at first. Careful not to burn them as bread will turn colour fast and do not fry at too low heat as they would suck up a lot of oil, so keep the oil temperature at medium high. Fry and turn them around until they are golden on both sides. Remove on to kitchen towels to drain off the excess oil for a few minutes. Then dip each roll into the warm syrup, turning to ensure each side is well coated and some of the syrup gets absorbed into the pastries. Remove on to a wire rack (place a tray under the rack for easy clean up) so the excess syrup drips off.
You can serve these either at room temperature or cold from the fridge. On serving, remember to drizzle a bit more syrup and scatter the crushed pistachios/almonds over them.