Ever since graduation a couple of weeks ago it seems as if all my time and energy has been consumed by the process of unpacking. Seriously though, where did all these boxes come from? I see now that two jars of whole nutmeg are unnecessary and a third bottle of balsamic vinegar is overkill. Meanwhile, my room is still in shambles, hidden somewhere underneath piles of unopened boxes that have constructed a fort around my bed. The kitchen, however, was the first space to be thoroughly unpacked. To commemorate this occasion I decided to blog about one of my all-time favorite Middle Eastern desserts, haytaliyye.
Haytaliye (hay•ta•lee•ya) is a traditional Aleppan dessert that is popular during the scorching summer months that characterize the Middle East. And trust me – even though we’re thousands of miles away, nothing brings out the heat more than lugging densely packed boxes up three flights of stairs. Plus, the entire dessert is made with things most of us would already have in our kitchens on any given day.
The dessert itself is nothing more than whole milk cooked with cornstarch. This mixture is then chilled, cut into bite-sized cubes, and served as the foundation for the other toppings.
Traditionally, this dessert is served with clotted cream ice cream, but that’s pretty hard to come by in the States. Instead, I use high quality vanilla ice cream, and it works quite well.
The third component of the dish, and arguably the most important, is the orange-blossom-infused simple syrup. A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, barely boiled until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once it’s done, adding a touch of orange blossom water gives the syrup its unique flowery fragrance.
(yields approx. 10 servings)
- 1.5 L whole milk
- 100 g. cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. orange blossom water
- vanilla bean ice cream
- small (or crushed) ice cubes
- ice-cold water
Putting them all together
- Combine the water and sugar, bring to a boil over medium heat and remove once the sugar has diluted. Add the orange blossom water and refrigerate.
- Set aside enough cold milk to dilute the cornstarch and bring the remainder of the milk to a boil.
- Once the milk has come to a boil, add the cornstarch that has diluted in the cold milk and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes to avoid lumps.
- Lower the heat to low and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
- Pour out the milk mixture into a glass baking dish and immediately cover with ice-cold water so that the milk seizes.*
- Once everything has chilled, slice a few bite-sized cubes of the milk (leaving the preservation water behind), top with ice and ice cream and serve the chilled infused syrup at the table so that your guests can control how sweet they would like to make their dessert.
Note: Once you add the cold water, the milk mixture should seize and the water should remain clear. The water will preserve the milk mixture and prevent it from drying out in the fridge. If done correctly, tiny wrinkles will form on the surface of the milk mixture due to the shock from the rapid change in temperature.