When you need something sweet and simple, look no further than mahalabia, a “milk pudding” made with just milk, sugar, corn starch, and flavor.
Traditionally, rosewater is the way to go, but if you can find rosewater, you’re better connected than I am. Moroccans go with orange blossom water, but again, that’s not at your local 7-11 either. So if you must, which I did, vanilla works in a pinch, but it’s not a 1:1 trade!
Making mahalabia is super easy, but you have to pay attention. It’s very easy to burn this or not make it thick enough or make it too thick. When I tried making it, it was not thick enough. Ack! But don’t stress too much. Just watch the clues: when it coats the back of your spoon, it’s done.
2 cups Milk, plus 1/2 cup extra
1/2 cups Sugar
4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 teaspoons rosewater (or 2 tsp orange blossom water or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
Over medium heat, warm milk and sugar to close to boiling. Be sure to stir pretty constantly to keep the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn down to low.
In a side bowl, while the milk/sugar combo is heating up, combine cornstarch and extra milk.
Add cornstarch mixture to milk, stir and warm until milk mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon. They say it takes 2 minutes, but I think it’s a bit longer than that.
Take off the heat, and add rosewater or substitute. Stir and cool in refrigerator until thick and delicious. 3 hours minimum, but the longer the better.
Consider adding raisins, pistachios, or almonds.
Play around with this - other versions have cardamon as well. Just watch the heat when you’re boiling the milk - you don’t want it to stick or burn. The final consistency ought to be something similar to Greek yogurt.
I don't know where I got this recipe! I have searched and searched and cannot find an exact match. But it turned out deliciously.
Photo by Drew Vahrenkamp