Znoud el sit are cream filled phyllo dough fried until golden and crispy and dipped in orange blossom and rose water scented sugar syrup. A decadent indulgence that’s loved in the Middle East, easier than you might think to make!
What are znoud el sit?
The funny part is that the name literally translates to “the lady’s upper arms”. So named because the cylinder like phyllo rolls are thought to resemble them! My znoud el sit lived up to the name, because each one was a totally different size lol- my rolling skills might not be up to standard, but I’m absolutely confident in how delicious these taste!
The znoud have an ashta or cream filling, thickened with cornstarch and scented with orange blossom and rose water. The wrapper is phyllo dough , which can be a bit finicky to work with. I’ll give some tips in a separate section below. The phyllo dough is fried until golden brown, then dipped in an easy homemade sugar syrup. Absolutely delicious!
This is commonly enjoyed in Ramadan, and you’ll find a version of these in any traditional Middle Eastern sweet shop you go to.
Why should I make this?
There’s nothing like something crispy, golden brown and fried to perfection, and this recipe is no exception.
Definitely not a health food, but these little rolls feed a crowd and will make that crowd very happy!
They can be made in advance and frozen before being fried, which makes Ramadan dessert prep a lot easier, see freezing section below.
The combination of textures from the crispy exterior to the soft cream filled interior is absolutely delightful. There’s a hint of exotic flavors from the rose water and orange blossom water, but the rest of the ingredients are staple pantry ingredients.
What ingredients do I need to make znoud el sit?
For the sugar syrup:
Regular white sugar, lemon juice, water, rose water and orange blossom water. You can find rose water and orange blossom water in any Middle Eastern supermarkets or online, they are a staple in most of our desserts!
For the cream filling:
Milk, full fat for richness, plus some heavy cream to make the cream more decadent.
Sugar for some sweetness in the cream. Not too much, since the rolls will be dipped in sugar syrup.
Cornstarch or corn flour for thickening the cream into a pudding like texture.
Rose water, orange blossom water, and optionally Mastic gum for flavor. Mastic is a little harder to find, so please feel free to leave it out, we are adding a tiny amount which goes a long way.
Mastic is a plant resin known for it’s health properties, like for easing digestion. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern desserts and has a very distinct flavor, refreshing pine and cedar notes. You can probably find it in Middle Eastern stores or even health stores.You can definitely make the recipe without.
Vegetable oil: To fry the assembled znood el sit.
Phyllo dough: The phyllo dough needs to be thawed before using, but it thaws very quickly on the countertop (an hour or two) or in the fridge overnight.
Working with phyllo dough:
Filo dough dries out very quickly, so while assembling, lay a damp kitchen towel over the opened pack of dough.
Don’t panic if your dough tears. You can just use another sheet, you’ll have plenty extra!@
Flour and water: We mix these together to form a thick paste for sealing the phyllo dough shut so that it doesn’t open up when frying.
How to make and assemble:
- First make the cream filling to give it time to cool before filling the phyllo dough. This is as simple as combining all the ingredients in a saucepan, and continuing to whisk until the mixture thickens into a pudding.
- Next step is to make the sugar syrup, which can be done in advance. You just need to combine all the ingredients for the sugar syrup in a saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes, then set aside.
- Now assemble the znoud: The phyllo will most likely come in large rectangular sheets. Cut each sheet into 3-4 strips, each strip being 4×8 inches (10x20cm in dimension)
- Place two strips on top of each other to form a sort of T shape. Place a heaped tbsp of cream filling in the center of the cross where the two strips meet.
- Fold over the horizontal bits of phyllo to cover the cream, then roll the vertical strip down like you’re making a burrito. Use a little flour/water paste once you get to the end to seal the phyllo dough shut. Continue rolling phyllo rolls you use up all your cream filling.
- At this point, you can freeze the filled and assembled phyllo rolls for up to three monnths, or you can heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet, fry and enjoy them. Once fried until golden brown and crispy, dip in the sugar syrup, garnish with chopped pistachios and enjoy.
Freezing Znoud El Sit:
To freeze the uncooked rolls, lay flat onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet in the freezer for a couple of hour until frozen solid, at which point they can be transferred to a freezer bag (we do this so they don’t stick to each other). They can be frozen up to 3 months, and fried directly from frozen.
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Znoud El Sit
For the sugar syrup:
- 2.5 cups granulated sugar 300g
- 1 1/4 cups water 300ml
- squeeze lemon juice
- 1 tbsp rose water
- 1 tbsp orange blossom water
For the cream filling:
- 2 cups full fat milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp mastic gum
- 4 tbsp cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 tsp rose water
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 1/2 pack phyllo dough, thawed (about 12 sheets) each package is around
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
For the sugar syrup:
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Set on a stovetop over medium high heat. Stir just to combine then let it be. If sugar isn’t dissolving you can stir a couple times but as soon as it starts to boil stop stirring.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from stove immediately once 10 minutes is over. It should have thickened to the consistency of maple syrup.
- Once off the heat, stir in rosewater an orange blossom water, and remove from heat. Pour some in a bowl to use for dipping the finished znoud el sit, the remainder can be stored in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.
For the cream filling (ashta)
- Make the cream filing by combining the whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and cornstarch in a small pot. (If using mastic gum, crush it with the sugar by placing the sugar and mastic in a plastic bag and rolling over it with a rolling pin).
- Place over medium heat and begin whisking. After a couple of minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. Keep whisking for 8 minutes or so, until mixture has thickened to the consistency of a pudding. Remove from heat, stir in rose water, and orange blossom water, then place in a bowl and cool completely.
- Cut the phyllo dough into rectangular strips, about 8×4 inches (20×10 cm).
- Make a T with two phyllo dough strips crossed on top of each other, one vertical and one horizontal (see video).
- Add a heaped tbsp of the cream filling right in the center of the cross and fold over the horizontal bits of the T to cover it.
- Roll the vertical strip from bottom to top to make a cylinder shape.
- Mix together the flour and water, and use this paste as a glue to seal the ends of the cylinder shut so they don't open up when frying.
- Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, fry the znoud el sit, in batches, until golden brown and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain some of the oil, then dip the hot rolls in the sugar syrup. Enjoy hot, garnished with chopped pistachios if desired.