Ashta, the Principal Clotted Cream of Our Ethnic Desserts
Ashta is the Lebanese pronunciation of the Arabic written term “Kashta”; a clotted Fresh Cream used in many of our ethnic desserts.
From the Layeli Loubnan to the Kanafeh bil Ashta, passing by the Mafroukeh, Aysh El-Saraya and more, you will need this Ashta recipe to complete them. This is the reason why I am dedicating a page for it. You might want to bookmark it!
I believe that I owe to the patient efforts of our mothers and grandmothers to tell you how the Ashta used to be made at home before we came up with a much easier recipe.
The Fresh Milk of our Ashta
Not long ago, Milk did not exist in the shelves of our supermarkets. It used to be provided to homes by the milkman who was actually a shepherd or a farmer.
During my childhood, and that would be in the late 60s and mid 70s, the milkman used to knock on our door once a week. He would set at the foot door two very large metal recipients, and ask my mother how many kilos of milk do we need this week.
It was really a ritual question. We were, as it is called, “a big happy family”. So, counting 7 kids, my parents and the house helpers, you can imagine “how many kilos” of milk we needed per week. 🙂
That fresh milk reaching our home was not pasteurized. Fresh, meaning really fresh and as natural as it can be! So, from the milkman at the door directly to a large pan on the stove to boil, our milk would be home pasteurized, cooled down then refrigerated in tighten glass bottles or containers. And no, none of us ever got sick from the milk, if this is what you are assuming. 🙂
If you think this was a major effort, wait to hear how the Ashta was made at home!
The Original Ashta Recipe
That, I do remember very well because I was an active part of the efforts more often than I wished. My mother would pour a large quantity of milk in a large casserole on the stove at low heat. That slow simmering needed to be mixed non-stop with a wooden spoon. I would stand on a low chair to reach my task.
It was all about waiting for a light creamy texture to form at the surface. Mom would remove that filmy layer into a side bowl, and I back to stirring for the next creamy layer to appear.
This routine would continue until all the milk is gone, and a nice bowl of cream is produced. A nice yet small bowl of cream! You might fathom now how precious that Ashta was. My father loved it big time, topped with honey.
The Ashta Recipe of Today
Nowadays, the Ashta Cream is made in few easy steps. No more simmering and skimming for long hours. You might find Ashta in Lebanese supermarkets. However, I do not recommend it. I tried it and did not like its aftertaste.
Nonetheless, some pastry stores sell excellent Ashta for homemade pastry. I do recommend it if you are in a hurry, and up to spend extra dollars.
I am delighted to share my Ashta recipe with you. You might want to bookmark this page. I will be referring you to it in several of my dessert recipes that require Ashta.
Enjoy! Life is Good!
- 6 slices American Bread (soft toast)
- 1 cup Powder Milk (non-fat)
- 2 tbsps Corn Flour diluted in a little cold water
- 1 tbsp Orange Blossom Water
- 1 tbsp Rosewater
- 2 tbsps White Sugar Optional: See notes below
- 2 cups Water cold
With a knife, remove the dark sides of the toast bread and cut the softer parts in small cubes.
In a non-stick casserole, blend the powder milk with the cold water, the corn flour and the sugar.
Mix in the breads and leave it to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Place the casserole on medium heat, stir continuously until the mixture thickens.
Turn off the heat, mix in the rosewater and the blossom water.
Leave it to cool at room temperature, then place it in the fridge until the cream thickens well.
In case your cream is not thickening enough during the cooking process, you may go ahead and add 1 tbsp of diluted cornstarch.
Use just enough cold water or milk to liquidize it.