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ashta fingers-4

Ashta Fingers

My favorite dessert to make are these crispy phyllo wrapped fingers filled with custard and showered in a sweet simple syrup! Think of this dessert as a hybrid between Kanafa and Baklawa – AKA the best of both worlds. And surprisingly, they’re so easy to make. The only sad part is they disappear within seconds of how fast they’re enjoyed.

In Morocco, we call phyllo in this shape cigars but in other countries, this dessert is known as Znoud El Sit and it is traditionally Lebanese. Moroccans fill it with a savory meat filling or sweet almond filling instead of astha. 

Working with Phyllo Dough Sheets

This recipe will require a 1 pound box of phyllo sheets. Now working with phyllo sheets can be tricky as they’re super thin and dry out quickly but if you follow these few tips, it’ll be a breeze.

  • Never leave the phyllo sheets uncovered while working. They will dry out fast, causing it to tear or even crumble when touched. I like to dampen a paper napkin or clean towel and use it as a cover for the phyllo sheets. Every time I need a sheet, I uncover it, take one out, and cover it again.
  • Butter is your best friend! Unlike baklawa, this dessert is a lot less tedious and you don’t need to butter every sheet. Once the phyllo sheets are filled, rolled, and placed in the tray, pour butter on top and make sure it spreads all around into every corner and crevice. This will also prevent them from cracking and coming out dry after the oven. It also adds a beautiful rich taste.
  • Make sure the packaged phyllo dough is at room temperature before using. You can transfer from the freezer to the fridge the day before or take it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about two to three hours until room temp. 
  • Your hands need to be dry when working with the phyllo. If there’s water on your hands for any reason, it’ll make the sheets soggy. 

Making the Ashta

Ashta is like a custard or thick cream used in a lot of Arab/Middle Eastern desserts such as kanafa. It’s absolutely delicious and this recipe for ashta is the best I ever had. Definitely do not buy it premade from the store. You have to make it fresh to have the right consistency for this recipe and it also just tastes a million times better. I promise it’s also really easy. Once you become a pro at making it, you’ll be able to make so many other desserts that require it.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To a small pot over medium heat, add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, all purpose flour, and vanilla. Whisk together continuously so there are no clumps and bring to a boil. Drop the heat to low and it will be begin to thicken, just make sure to continuously whisk and scrape the sides of the pot as well as the bottom to avoid clumping. Once it has a thick consistency, take off the heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover the top with Saran Wrap and pop in the fridge to cool down.

How to Prepare the Phyllo For This Recipe

Once the ashta is prepared and cooled down, we can work on the phyllo. This recipe works best in a 9×9 pan or larger. You want to cut the phyllo into the size of your pan so I cut mine into a large 9×9 square. I then cut that square in half so I have two stacks of rectangles so that I’ll have two rows of the fingers baking in the tray. We will be using the excess phyllo cut off so don’t toss it.

Like in the picture above, lay the longer 9×4 phyllo sheet horizontally. Then take a small strip from the excess phyllo sheet and place it below or above the longer sheet vertically – either way doesn’t matter. You want a few inches hanging over on each side. Then pipe a long strip of ashta and fold the hanging sides over it and then roll tightly starting from the shorter end to the other side. Place seam side down on the baking tray and repeat with the rest until the tray is full.

Pour butter over the top of the tray, making sure all the phyllo is coated in every corner and then it’s time to bake in the oven. 

After it comes out of the oven, it gets covered in simple syrup. I like to prepare it right after the ashta and before rolling the phyllo.

You only need three ingredients:

  • water
  • granulated white sugar
  • orange blossom water

Just bring it all to a boil in a pot until the sugar is completely dissolved and then simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Immediately when the fingers come out of the oven, cover them in syrup. Use as much or as little as you like depending on sweetness level. Allow them to cool and then enjoy!

Can These Be Fried?

Yes, traditional Znoud El Sit is fried in oil in a pan but I think phyllo can come out beautifully golden and crispy in the oven too with butter so that’s what I do. If you’d like to fry it, just make sure to seal the ends after rolling with a little water. This will prevent them from unrolling and popping oven in the fryer. 

If you tried this recipe and loved it, drop by down below and let me know how you liked it with a rating and comment! Feel free to also leave a question there about this recipe and I’ll get right back to it. 

To see more recipes and behind the scenes, follow along on Instagram! I’m also now on Pinterest pinning away so stop by and see what’s up.

Ashta Fingers

My favorite dessert to make are these crispy phyllo wrapped fingers filled with custard and showered in a sweet simple syrup! Think of this dessert as a hybrid between Kanafa and Baklawa - AKA the best of both worlds. And surprisingly, they're so easy to make. The only sad part is they disappear within seconds of how fast they're enjoyed.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Dessert

Equipment

  • 9 x 9 baking pan or larger

Ingredients
  

PHYLLO

  • 1 pound phyllo sheets
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted (won't need to use it all)

ASHTA

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water

TOPPINGS

  • chopped pistachios optional
  • rose petals optional

Instructions
 

MAKE THE ASHTA

  • To a small pot over medium heat, add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, all purpose flour, and vanilla extract. Whisk continuously and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce the heat and bring to a simmer and continuously whisk so it doesn't become clumpy until it thickens up. Once thick, transfer to a bowl and cover the top with Saran Wrap, making sure it's touching the cream. Transfer to the fridge to cool down.

MAKE THE SIMPLE SYRUP

  • While the ashta cools down, make the simple syrup. In a pot over medium heat add the water, sugar, and orange blossom water. Bring to a boil so all the sugar is dissolved and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature so it thickens up a bit more.

ROLLING THE PHYLLO

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Take out phyllo sheets and cut the whole stack into the size of the pan. I used a 9x9 square pan so I cut the phyllo into a 9x9 square. Then cut that stack in half so that your pan will have two rows. Save the scraps to use later. Cover the phyllo with a damp clean towel to keep it from going dry.
  • Take one of the half sheets and lay it horizontally. Take a short piece of the scrap and lay it across vertically on one edge so it hangs on each side (see image above for example). Add about 2 tablespoons of ashta. You can pipe it or just use a spoon. Fold the hanging edges towards the center and then roll from one edge to the other tightly and place in the tray. Repeat until your tray is filled.

BAKE

  • Once the tray is filled, pour butter over and brush so all the phyllo is coated evenly and generously. I used about 3/4 of the butter.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or just until beautifully golden.
  • Right when it comes out of the oven while still hot, cover in syrup. Use as much or as little simple syrup as you'd like.
  • Allow it to cool and then enjoy! You can top it off with crushed pistachios and rose petals too.

Video

Keyword dessert, phyllo, Ramadan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
    • Afsheen
    • April 6, 2022
    Reply

    5 stars
    These turned out incredible, I made these for the first time and they went down a treat! A new family favourite.

    • Shahd
    • April 6, 2022
    Reply

    5 stars
    This is sooo good! The ashta is perfect – creamy, smooth and so satisfying. Probably the best I’ve ever had.
    Also, great explanation of how to roll them.
    Thanks Hajar!

    For anyone planning to make this: one thing to pay attention to is to make sure you leave it enough so that the bottom is golden too. I took it out but had to put it back in when i noticed the bottom hadn’t browned as well as the top.
    Also –

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