When family came to visit in late June, we had the idea of making a Greek feast for the first night.
Deciding what to serve for dinner was easy, especially when my sister offered to pick up dolmas, hummus, and fresh pita from one of the Armenian groceries outside of Boston. But dessert had me a bit stumped. I wanted to make baklava, but I knew this crowd was going to be in the mood for a light dessert. I wanted something less than full-on baklava, but something more than a bowl of fruit.
It occurred to me that I could make a baklava ice cream and serve it in tiny scoops in phyllo shells so that guests could choose to have just a bite and still feel like they had something special. Better yet, it turns ice cream into finger food.
For the base, I started with Jeni's standard base, then added the baklava flavors I wanted: vanilla, cinnamon, and honey. The rose-water syrup is a simple sugar and water syrup with a bit of rose water added. I used chopped walnuts, but you can use whatever nuts you prefer (roasted or not), or even omit them altogether. —hobnob
In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the milk and the cornstarch and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together, and set aside.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, the split vanilla beans, and the cinnamon sticks in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a low, rolling boil, and cook for four minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the cornstarch mixture and the honey.
Return the mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is slightly thickened, for one or two minutes (note: if it doesn’t thicken much, don’t worry).
Gradually whisk the hot milk/cream mixture into the cream cheese.
Chill the mixture overnight (or use Jeni’s quick-cool method).
Make the syrup by combining the sugar and water and bringing to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rose water, return to a boil, cook for 3-4 minutes, then let cool.
Remove the vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks from the chilled base.
Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
In a freezer-safe container, add a layer of the ice cream base, then drizzle in a layer of syrup, then add a layer of chopped nuts, then another layer of ice cream, and so on, until the container is full.
Cover with a sheet of parchment cut to size, seal container tightly, and freeze for several hours until hard.
To serve, warm the phyllo shells according to package directions. Use a teaspoon or small cookie or ice cream scoop to make a tiny scoop of ice cream and place it in the crisped shell. If you have any syrup or nuts left, you can add a final drizzle or sprinkle to the top of the ice cream. Serve 2-3 mini scoops/shells per person.