This easy homemade ashta cream is a staple when it comes to Middle Eastern desserts. It's a quick shortcut to the real deal but tastes just as rich and decadent. It's basically the whipped cream of the Middle East and is used in a wide array of desserts like aish el saraya and mafroukeh. Have it with honey and bread, on top of fruit cocktails, or as a pastry filling, this ashta cream will easily become a kitchen staple.
I used to buy ashta at a local dessert shop, as it's so easy to find in Egypt, but I honestly prefer this easy homemade version instead. It's super quick, easy, and so delicious!
What is Ashta Cream?
Ashta is a rich and decadent thick clotted cream that's very well-known and loved all across the Middle East. Traditionally, it's made by boiling fresh milk and skimming off the thin skin that forms on its surface. The process is then repeated until a good amount is collected. People don't usually bother to make the traditional ashta at home because of how time-consuming it is, and either opt for store-bought versions or easy homemade ashta like this recipe. It's a little similar to mascarpone cheese or store-bought clotted cream, but not exactly the same.
What I Love About This Recipe
This easy homemade ashta is one of my all-time favorite recipes simply because of how EASY it is. You just whisk everything together on the stove until it thickens, and refrigerate. It's also very versatile: you could flavor it, use it as a pastry filling, as a dessert topping, as a homemade ice cream base, the possibilities are endless. It only needs a few ingredients that are very easy to find which you probably already have at home. Unlike traditional ashta, which isn't as available in all parts of the world.
- Milk: Whole milk works best with this recipe, for a rich and creamy ashta. But I've used skimmed and 2%, and they both worked fine.
- Whipping cream: The secret to the creamiest homemade ashta is using whipping cream. You can also use heavy cream. The key is to have a high-fat milk.
- All-purpose flour: Just two tablespoons of all-purpose flour will perfectly thicken this homemade cream.
- Cornstarch: Similar to this stovetop rice pudding recipe, the cornstarch will thicken this ashta into a beautiful rich and creamy consistency. The key is to make sure you whisk it constantly when you add in the cornstarch to make sure it doesn't clump up.
- Orange blossom water (optional): You can use vanilla, cocoa powder, rosewater, or any flavor essence you like to flavor this ashta. I usually go for orange blossom water for an authentic Middle Eastern feel.
How To Make Easy Homemade Ashta
Whisk together the milk, cream, flour, and cornstarch in a small pot. Don't heat it up yet, you want to make sure the flour and cornstarch have completely dissolved before you turn on your stove.
Turn your stove on medium-high heat, whisking constantly until your ashta cream thickens and comes to a full boil. Keep whisking for about a minute more, until the mixture becomes very thick. At this point, you can add any liquid flavorings you like. If using powdered flavoring like cocoa powder, add it in with the flour and cornstarch in the previous step.
Once your ashta cream is ready, immediately pour it into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap actually touches the surface of the ashta to prevent an unpleasant film from forming on top.
Let cool at room temperature then refrigerate to set for an hour. Loosen it up with a spoon when ready to use.
Tips And Tricks
The best trick I can give you for this recipe is: don't stop whisking. For your homemade ashta to come out smooth, rich, and creamy, don't stop whisking after you put the mixture on the heat. Otherwise, you'll end up with a chunky, grainy mixture instead.
Another tip if you want a more spreadable ashta to use as a topping on desserts like basbousa, is to use a hand blender to loosen it up after it has set. This will make your ashta cream easy to spread on top of cakes, desserts, or even on bread.
Variations And Substitutions
Make it sweet. Traditional ashta isn't sweetened at all. But if you prefer sweeter ashta cream, add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, honey, or your sweetener of choice.
Make it gluten-free. Substitute the all-purpose flour with the same amount of fine cornflour if you're avoiding gluten.
Flavor it. If you want to get creative, add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder for a rich chocolate cream, a teaspoon of vanilla extract for a vanilla cream, a teaspoon of lemon zest for a lemon-flavored cream, or add in any of your favorite spices and flavorings instead.
Store homemade ashta with plastic wrap on top and in an airtight container for up to 3 days. It does not freeze well, so use it within 3 days.
Ashta can be used as a pastry or dessert filling in recipes like mafroukeh, ma'amoul bars (sub the date filling for cream), in qatayef, or more commonly served as a side with dishes like mamouniyeh or fruit salad. It's also a common breakfast side dish for dipping bread in with honey on the side.
They're both similar high-fat dairy products, but they're not the same. Heavy cream has slightly more fat than whipping cream and either one can be used for this recipe.