Habibi, I’m home!

definition for habibi

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.

mise en place
mise en place

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.

like milk jello, only tastier than it sounds
milk cubes

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.

your favorite vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream

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.

Haytaliye (حيطلية)
pouring the simple syrup

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

  1. 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.
  2. Set aside enough cold milk to dilute the cornstarch and bring the remainder of the milk to a boil.
  3. 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.
  4. Lower the heat to low and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  5. Pour out the milk mixture into a glass baking dish and immediately cover with ice-cold water so that the milk seizes.*
  6. 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.



18 thoughts on “Habibi, I’m home!

  1. See you’re still alive under those boxes Habibi! As I have lived almost most of my life in the Mid. East you can imagine how much I love this dessert. The hotel my dad worked in employed a Lebanese chef who made a killer haytaliye. You bring back memories!

  2. That looks so refreshing and seems simple to make! Do you think that rose water would be a complimentary substitution for the orange blossom water? Beautiful dish :).

  3. Now thinking of the many wonderful ways I can use orange blossom water in desserts! Thanks, from waterlogged Iowa

  4. Tony, this is something I’ve never seen before, but it looks fabulous and refreshing! Oh, and the kitchen’s got to be the first room unpacked. As long as you can get to your bed and eat, you’re good.

  5. Yeah, baby! This looks like the perfect way to beat the heat! And Elle’s right–as long as you can eat and get to your bed, the other stuff will get done bit by bit. And another thing? 2 jars of whole nutmeg and 3 bottles of Balsamic are *not* overkill if you’re a food junkie. In fact, I think it’s part of the requirements. lmao

  6. Meeta – I’m glad you like this dessert!! I hadn’t had it in the longest time because it was something I always waited for my mom to make and never realized how easy it is!

    Amelia – Thanks! Actually, my grandmother insists that the dessert tastes better with rose water, so it definitely is a suitable substitution. She was not too happy that my recipe calls for orange blossom water, so I’m sure she’ll be pleased to hear that someone asked about an alternative : )

    Guia – There are so many uses for OBW. In fact, I think it’s safe to consider it the vanilla extract of the Middle East since they use it in so many of their desserts.

    HoneyB – Thanks Shelby! It’s good to be back and get back in touch with everyone! I’m glad I’m not the only one who looks out for the specks : )

    WORC – I’m excited to see what you guys came up with!

    Elle – Thanks! I love you’re philosophy, eat and sleep – works for me : )

    Nikki – So true. My room is almost done though, so I’ll be able to eat, sleep and at least get to my computer, too! Can’t forget about the computer 🙂

    Bellini Valli – I just ate my last bowl yesterday and it did help with the killer heat that we had… but now I wish I had more.

  7. Nice. Other than Breyers, I’ve not had good vanilla ice cream where I can enjoy the beans! If my kitchen is a mess, i don’t sleep well! crazy, right.

    halla bik.
    ok tony as some wrlds at arbic well i can, talk but not a write i you knew i live in nazaret and you have more respect and love.

  9. Thanks for the recipe, this is awesome 🙂 How do I measure 100g of cornstarch? I read somewhere it’s 13/16 of a cup, but maybe you’d measured it with tbsp or something? Can’t wait to make this!!

  10. Hi Keghani — I’m so glad it turned out well. In the future, you could try making the haytaliye with 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch (that’s the equivalent of 13/16 cup). I need to make this again soon; I haven’t had it in the longest time.

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