baklava ice cream with pistachios + buttered phyllo dough

Today I competed in an ice cream contest called The Takedown where about 25 amateur chefs created their most inventive ice cream flavors for some ice cream-related judges and the public – my flavor was baklava. I was really pleased with how it turned out but it definitely was more work than your average flavor so I would probably save this one for when you’re really trying to impress. I didn’t win any grand prize, but the judges from Adirondack Creamery and Blue Marble Ice Cream gave me honorable mention for my “labor of love”.

I had to make 2 gallons and things just kind of unfolded as I went along, so the quantities for the syrup below are estimates. The cool thing about this ice cream is that you get to dig around for things and their all worth digging for – the chewy pistachios coated in honey syrup (the syrup gets chewy too) and the buttery flakes of phyllo dough. It doesn’t matter if you get a bite of dry phyllo from the top or a moist piece that’s been sandwiched between ice cream and syrup, both are great because it’s new texture and buttery flavor no matter which way you slice it. And, even if for some reason you don’t get bits and pieces, you still get that baklava flavor somehow.  Hopefully you’ll give it a whirl!

pistachios in honey syrup

phyllo stacks cut to the shape of the container

the samples

baklava ice cream

makes about 2 quarts

ingredients for ice cream

  • 1-1/2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 3-1/2 cups half & half + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey

ingredients for pistachios in syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 8 ounces raw pistachio meat

ingredients for phyllo dough

  • 8 sheets raw phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted

To make the ice cream:

  1.  In a large bowl, mash the cream cheese until soft and loose; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons of half & half; whisk until completely dissolved; set aside.
  3. In a pot over high heat, combine remaining half & half, sugar and honey. Stirring occasionally, allow mixture to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the corn starch mixture; mix well. Bring mixture back to a boil and cook for 1 more minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese; whisk until cream cheese is combined. Refrigerate until cool and make according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.

To make the syrup:

  1. In a small pot over high heat, combine the sugar, water, honey and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; reduce to a simmer until mixture has reduced and is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove to a large container and refrigerate (or stick it in the freezer) to bring it to room temperature.
  2. In a food processor, pulse or chop pistachios into tiny pieces, but not so tiny that it looks like sand.
  3. Once syrup is cool, add pistachio pieces and mix well.

To make the phyllo dough:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
  2. Cut two stacks (each containing 8 layers) of the phyllo dough to the shape of your container. To do this, keep the 8 sheets of phyllo stacked on top of each other. Press the lid of your container  onto one half of the phyllo to create an imprint and make another one right next to it. Cut around the imprint (not inside) and you’re left with two stacks of 8 sheets in the exact shape of your container.
  3. Place one layer of phyllo on the wax paper; brush with butter making sure to get all the edges. Place another layer of phyllo right on top; brush with butter. Repeat until you have two stacks of 8 buttered phyllo sheets. Don’t forget to butter the top layer.
  4. Bake in oven until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To build ice cream:

  1. In a 2 quart container, layer half of the ice cream, half of the pistachios in syrup and the uglier of the phyllo stacks. Repeat so that you are left with the pretty phyllo stack on top. Freeze until ready to serve.
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