When making choux pastry for balah el sham it is very important to allow the dough to cool before adding the eggs. If they are added to a hot dough, they will begin to coagulate, and you will end up with something resembling scrambled eggs. Wait until it is about 50°C (it should take 5-10 minutes, but you can use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature to make sure) before you add and incorporate 1 egg at a time. Use about 2 minutes to incorporate each egg and remember to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with each added egg.
This classic dessert consists of unleavened choux pastry that is fried in oil, coated with sugar syrup, and served with delicious cream and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. Popular across many different cuisines, it originated in the former Ottoman Empire. The dessert bites, which are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, are often served with a dipping sauce or stuffed with a creamy filling like in our recipe.
These tasty balah el sham will have everyone at iftar reaching for just one more. To prepare them, begin by making the choux pastry. Combine water, butter, and salt in a pan, add flour and continue to stir it until it turns into a combined dough. Let it cool before adding one egg at a time and mixing it well. Pipe it directly into the cooking oil. Cook them until they are deep golden brown, so they gain their signature crispy exterior and soft interior. Coat with syrup, cut and fill with cream, and garnish with pistachios.
Though some serve balah al sham simply coated with sugar syrup and sprinkled with chopped pistachios, we believe that filling them with a fresh-tasting cream takes it to new heights. But there is no need to stop there! You can serve these dessert bites with different dipping sauces made with chocolate, caramel, and fruits or play around with other toppings like different nuts and fresh or dried fruits and berries. Experiment with different taste combinations to create tasty and decorative Ramadan treats.
Because balah al sham tend to soften over time, they are best enjoyed on the day they are made. When filled with cream, they may be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. Either cover them with aluminium foil with holes or place them under a sieve that will allow air in. This way their crunchy exterior is protected from softening. Unfilled and unbaked balah al sham may be frozen. Pipe them onto a baking tray and flash freeze them to prevent them from sticking together when stored and put them in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 2 months. They may then, after being thawed overnight in the fridge, be fried.
Popular with children and adults alike, balah el sham makes for delicious finger food. The choux pastry treats, which are sometimes referred to as dates because of their elongated shape, offer a wonderful eating experience with plenty of different textures. While balah el sham is a sweet dish with hints of buttery goodness and warm, floral vanilla, it is not an overly sweet dessert. The rich, creamy filling and the crunchy, nutty pistachios suit the choux pastry exceedingly well and combine to create a well-rounded pastry treat.
If you are looking for other traditional and tasty desserts for iftar, you might like to try fried qatayef and mafroukeh, which both feature some of the same ingredients as balah el sham but with different types of pastry. You can also opt for dishes like yoghurt tiramisu with cream and mini fruit tartlets if you want desserts with flavour profiles that are completely different to balah el sham.
Choux pastry has a buttery yet neutral flavour that makes it well-suited for savoury as well as sweet dishes. Its amazing ability to puff up as it is cooked or baked gives it a wonderful texture that sets it apart from other types of pastry. As its outer shell becomes crispy, its inside remains light and airy.
When fried, as in this balah el sham recipe, this contrast between the crunchy outside and the tender soft inside becomes even more pronounced. It is precisely what makes eating puffed-up balah el sham with velvety cream and crunchy nuts so wonderful.
Besides making a good choux pastry, a perfect balah el sham is all about frying. It is what gives the dessert its unique golden look and a crunchy texture on the outside while soft inside. Using a star-tipped piping bag, pipe the balah el sham choux pastry directly into the oil. Unlike when cooking the similar Spanish churros, the oil should not be very hot.
Though it is a bit more time-consuming, frying balah el sham in warm oil, as opposed to hot oil, allows the choux pastry to puff up nicely and gain a plumper appearance as well as a fluffy interior. Alternatively, you can place the balah el sham into room temperature oil, turn the heat up to medium, cook them until they start to float, turn them, and continue cooking them until they are golden brown.
As you cook the balah el sham, they will expand quite a lot so be sure not to place too many into the saucepan at a time. Cook them until their exterior is a deep golden brown to ensure a crispy exterior.
Though cream-filled balah el sham are great as they are, serving them with a dipping sauce on the side does not take away from their deliciousness. They taste great with a range of different options like a rich chocolate sauce, an intensely sweet date and caramel sauce, a delicate orange blossom jam, or a simple labneh with honey.
You can, of course, also mix up our recipe for balah el sham by experimenting with other toppings. Different nuts such as walnuts and almonds are delicious options if you feel like swapping out the pistachios. However, mixing these traditional green nuts with tangy, dried cranberries or freeze-dried raspberries makes for a beautiful display of balah el sham with red and green colours. It also gives the treats a bit of additional texture.
Homemade balah el sham also taste delicious with fresh fruits and berries. Try using tasty options like peach, mango, and strawberries to discover your favourite way to serve the traditional dessert.