Monday, October 1, 2012

Znood al Set or Lady´s Arms! زنود الست

Znoud al Set, a sweet, crispy and delicious sweet
Previously I showed you how you can make, in the comfort of your home, traditional Arabic clotted cream (kachta or achta). This cream is a basic in many desserts, once you get the hang of it you can make your own pairings and combinations based on seasonal products or your personal preferences.

I decided to keep things simple yet elegant and delicious and I went with the choice of using the cream with phyllo pastry. One of the traditional recipes that call for the use of both ingredients and is quite popular in the Levant countries is called Znoud al Set which basically means Lady's Arms.

While I have the patience to prepare Arabic clotted cream at home, preparing phyllo dough at home is a different level of complexity. It's not that the ingredients used in the pastry are complicated, but it's almost impossible to achieve the level of thinness needed for phyllo dough using home utensils. Luckily phyllo dough is widely available in supermarkets so by all means, buy from a brand you trust. This paper thin dough is to make baklava but lends itself marvelously for a wide array of sweet and savory recipes.

It is believed that the art of stretching the phyllo dough into a papery thin pastry took place in the palaces of the Sultans of Istanbul. As for the dessert featured in this post, the story of its birth goes like this: In a dinner of the governor of the Ottoman provinces of Tripoli and Lattakia (1798-1833), Mustapha Agha Barbar, a new dessert was served, kachta rolled in phyllo pastry and that had the shape or the appearance of arms, so one of the guests suggested that these sweets should be called Znoud el set (or lady´s arm); perhaps to honor the big number of women guests to that dinner party, and so it was!

Traditionally, the phyllo is stuffed with kachta and rolled in cylindrical shape similar to the Chinese spring rolls. The rolls were then deep fried in oil and drizzled or dipped in sugar syrup. The rolls are then garnished with pistachios and rose petal jam.

Inspired by the traditional recipe, I made Znoud al Set but added a few twists here and there.  In order to prepare the recipe you will need the following (serves about 7):

  • One pack of phyllo pastry, thawed
  • A cup and a half of kachta 
  • Sugar syrup
  • Chopped pistachios
  • Whipped cream (about a cup)
  • Rose water or rose essence
  • Figs
  • Melted butter
For the syrup you need:
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Tbsp of dried rose petals
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • Peel of half a lemon
  • Tsp of orange blossom water 
Flavoring the syrup with aromatic ingredients will make it much more interesting
In order to prepare the sugar syrup you need to combine all ingredients together except for the  orange blossom water. Simmer on a low heat for about 10 to 15 min. After removing the syrup from the heat add the orange blossom water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Don't add the orange blossom water while the mix is still boiling, because the delicate essence of orange water would be lost with the heat.

Now you would want to prepare the rolls. Brush a sheet of phyllo with melted butter and fold it in 2, repeating this process with another sheet. Place on top of each other, place a tablespoon of kachta in a raised cylindrical fashion towards the end of the dough making sure that the cream doesn't touch the edges.
Fold the sides of the dough over the cream and roll the dough over the cream starting with the side closest to the cream and going outwards. You might be tempted to put too much cream inside the roll, don't do that. The cream will leak out during cooking.
Easy steps to make the roll

Brush the finished rolls with some butter again and place them on a baking tray in a preheated oven (200C) and cook them for about 20 min or until golden brown. You can fry the rolls in vegetable oils instead of baking them, and they will be delicious, but I prefer to bake them, it is a slightly healthier option, yet nonetheless as delicious if not more.

After being baked, traditionally, the rolls are dipped in sugar syrup. I decided to avoid that, and drizzled just a bit on top. More syrup can be added while serving the rolls.

Figs, a typical fruit of the Middle East, work so well in this recipe
You can pair the rolls with several fruits, but I think figs go really well with them. The sweet and tasty Mediterranean fruits can be cut in halves and  lightly sauteed in butter until they are lightly brown or you can just serve them fresh.

Light whipped cream adds a special note to the recipe

Finally, you can serve the znoud al set with some extra cream on the sight for extra indulgence and decadence. The whipped cream doesn't need to be sweet, but it is much more interesting if you flavor it with few drops of rose water.

Arrange the different ingredients in a serving plate, decorate as you find suitable and there you have it, a tasty sweet from the East.

You can try and you might succeed and taking a bite of all the ingredients at the same time. The mellow sweetness of the figs complement the crispy butteriness of the rolls and the milkiness of the kachta. The whipped rose infused cream adds this special light note at the end. Make sure you try this recipe, you will love it!

A sweet treat that combines complementary tastes and textures

1 comment:

  1. Hey Rita! Do you mind if I use your recipe on my blog at