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Sahlep Custard

Growing up, sahlep, ground orchid root used in a Turkish milk-based hot drink, was a special treat, only after my dad had been on a trip to Istambul. I have discovered a shop here in Switzerland where I can find it now though, so while I like it as much as ever, it is less special and no longer a scarce commodity. Since discovering this, I have decided to start playing around with Sahlep as an ingredient in my cooking (Sahlep pancakes for example).

As part of this, I decided a while back that I wanted to try Sahlep puddings. I tried a first iteration of these months ago, without baking. I simply chilled sahlep infused custard before serving. It was tasty, but the flavour needed some work, it was too sweet, and it never set. Summer was then crazy busy, and then there was the whole episode with the arrival of the Littler Bit, so I only revisited the idea in the last few weeks. We had been making macarons so I had egg yolks to use, so it seemed the logical thing to do. This time I decided to try baking the custards and tweaked the flavouring and sugar combo to boot. I also included whey, leftover from making ricotta to help balance out the sweetness.


2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 c milk

1 c whey

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp sahlep

2 1/2 tbsp maple sugar

2 tbsp butter

6 egg yolks

1 tsp mix spice

1 tbsp maple sugar

1) In a small saucepan, heat 1c of the milk over medium-low heat. stir in the sahlep, cinnamon and maple sugar. Stir until combined and thickened slightly, never allowing the milk to come above a simmer. Set aside.

2) In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and flour. Stir and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, then stir in 1c of the milk and the whey. Bring to a boil and immediately lower to a simmer. Cook until thickened so that a finger dragged across the back of a spoon dipped in the pot leaves a trail. The Parting of the Milk!

3) Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Once the milk mixture has thickened, stir in a spoonful of it into the egg yolks to temper them until about 1 to 1 1/2c of the milk mixture has been incorporated into the eggs. Turn the heat off and stir the egg-milk mix into the pot.

4) Add the sahlep mix from step 1 and stir. Add the butter, allowing to melt and incorporate. Taste test, and add milk or cinnamon as necessary.

5) Spoon the resulting custard into a shallow baking dish or ramequins. Sprinkle over the remaining maple sugar and the mix spice. Bake at 180°C for 45-50 minutes, until set but still slightly jiggly. Serve warm or chilled.

We all very much enjoyed this, but even more so on day 2 when it was cold, with lekerli (Swiss German gingerbreads) dipped in the custards. Definitely pleased with this, especially as it is quick and easy to make and can be prepped ahead if entertaining.

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