Rounds of crisp, delicate pastry layered with custard make a delicious and festive dish
that is traditional for celebrations. This recipe for individual desserts is loosely adapted
from a version made at Riad el Amine, a centuries-old mansion in Fès that once belonged
to the grandparents of the owner, Jawhar Yassir. When I asked him how his grandmother
used to make the custard, he immediately telephoned her. “Exactly the same,” she told
him, “but without the cornstarch.” She thought that was cheating a little, making the
custard easier to thicken.
Phyllo is brittle, and once it is cut into rounds, the pastry tends to curl at the edges.
The rounds are easier to stack when flat, so after cutting the pastry, leave the rounds
covered with a kitchen cloth until brushing them with oil and baking them. Prepare a few
more sheets than needed in case the phyllo breaks or curls excessively.
The phyllo and the custard can be prepared in advance and the dessert assembled just
1⁄2 lb/225 g phyllo dough sheets or warqa
(see page 46)
Olive oil for brushing
About 1⁄2 cup/60 g sliced almonds
11⁄2 cups/360 ml cold milk
11⁄2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp orange flower water
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp sugar
Seasonal fresh fruit, such as raspberries
or sliced strawberries, for garnishing
4 sprigs fresh mint for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C/gas mark 4.
Brush the phyllo sheets lightly with olive oil
and stack in layers of three sheets. Using a 3-in-/
7.5-cm-diameter cutter or an inverted glass and
knife, cut out circles. Cover the cut circles with a
kitchen cloth until ready to use.
Brush both sides of the phyllo rounds with
olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on two or three
baking sheets. Bake until golden and crispy, about
5 minutes. Carefully transfer the rounds to a rack
Spread the almonds in a cake pan and bake,
shaking the pan from time to time, until golden,
2 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully that they do
In a saucepan, whisk the milk with the cornstarch
and orange flower water. In a mixing bowl,
beat the eggs and sugar until spongy and then
whisk into the milk. Cook over medium-low heat,
stirring continually with a wooden spoon, until
the mixture thickens and coats the back of the
spoon, about 8 minutes. Do not let the custard
reach a boil. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve or
chinois into a bowl; discard any solids. Let cool.
The custard should be thick enough to spoon
onto the pastry rounds without running off.
Just before serving, on top of each dessert
plate, dollop 1 Tbsp custard. Top with a pastry
round, dollop with another 1 Tbsp custard, and
then sprinkle with some almonds. Cover with
another round, and top with 1 Tbsp custard and
some nuts. Continue until there are four layers,
ending with the custard and almonds. Surround
the stacks with fruit and garnish with mint sprigs.