Friday, August 2, 2013

Honey and milk ice cream with Greek Pasteli

For the past couple of weeks in the Netherlands, we have been experiencing the worst heat wave since 2006. I wasn’t here in 2006, I moved here a year later and what I immediately liked about the Dutch summer was the cool temperatures. Never too hot, warm during the day with lots of sunshine, and pleasantly cool during the evenings.

I am Greek and I have lived in Athens my whole life so of course I’m used to the heat but let me tell you, what’s going on these past couple of weeks over here is something I can barely stand. The humidity is so high, your whole body sticks to every surface, every cloth and your mind just turns into mush. You have no energy or will to move, go out, work, eat or cook.

Needless to say, my kitchen is becoming more and more the least visited room in the apartment. The place where I’d normally spend a lot of my free time in, now I simply deny to enter.

That is unless I want to open the freezer to get some of this; ice cream. Quick and uncomplicated cooking is what it’s all about these days but the need to make my own ice cream is always present.

I’m nuts like that. I can’t eat the ready-made stuff, not more than once or twice during the summer. Chocolate is of course my number one choice when I make ice cream— I have actually been making a particular chocolate sorbet since early May, will have to share soon—but my latest addiction is this one. Honey and milk ice cream.

It is pure pleasure. A classic combination that yields an ice cream with a delicate flavor of honey and a subtle taste of milk. I’m not one to have ice cream on its own, I always like a little something to go with it, so this time I made pasteli. Pasteli is a famous Greek confection, a sesame seeds and honey candy that’s compressed into bars. It is a classic energy bar that’s a favorite among all Greeks.

The creamy, rich, milky, smooth ice cream and the chewy and slightly crisp pasteli are a match made in heaven. The honey in the pasteli brings out the honey flavor in the ice cream and the nuttiness of the sesame seeds complements its creaminess.

The heat wave may be relentless but it is also giving us a good excuse to splurge on our favorite ice creams. Or so we claim.

Honey and Milk Ice Cream

I used Greek flower honey but orange blossom honey would work very well. Make sure you enjoy the taste of the honey you’re using and that it is of good quality; the taste and texture of the ice cream depends on it.
To those of you who don't particularly enjoy the flavor of milk, let me assure you, it's not overwhelming.

Yield: about 900 g

300 ml fresh whole milk
6 medium-sized egg yolks
110 g caster sugar
300 ml cream, full-fat (35%)
3 Tbsp runny honey (I used Greek flower honey)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Special equipment: electric hand-held mixer, hand wire whisk, ice cream machine (optional yet preferable)

Add the milk to a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat just short of the boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave aside for 10 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar and beat on medium speed with an electric hand-held mixer until you have a creamy and thick mixture.
Switch to a hand wire whisk and while whisking the egg yolks, add the milk little-by-little. Empty this mixture back to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula until the mixture has the consistency of custard.
You’ll know when it’s ready when the mixture coats the back of a spatula with a thin layer. Do not allow the mixture to boil because it will curdle and you’ll have scrambled eggs instead of custard.
Empty the custard in a bowl and add the honey, mixing with a spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to cool. It will take about 1 hour.

In the meantime, add the cream in a large bowl and beat with an electric hand-held mixer until you have a lightly whipped cream.
Fold the whipped cream and vanilla to the cool custard and pour the mixture into your ice cream machine. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions, empty the ice cream into a container suitable for the freezer and place in the freezer for a couple of hours or until the ice cream is firm enough to serve.

Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream machine, empty the ice cream mixture into a container suitable for the freezer. Place the mixture in the freezer, take it out after 40 minutes and whisk it very well. You can also use a blender, or even a stick blender.
Continue doing the same thing every half hour, until it's too thick and frozen to beat or whisk. The whole process will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on how strong your freezer is.

You can keep the ice cream in your freezer for a week.

Pasteli (Greek Honey and Sesame Seed Bars)

Pasteli can also be made with almonds or other nuts but this is the classic version and the one I prefer.
You can toast the sesame seeds before you use them in the pasteli but I prefer it less nutty and not too strong.
I like to “caramelize” the honey before adding it to the sesame seeds, something that makes its flavor more pronounced and rounded. This is achieved by bringing the honey to the boil three times and letting it cool between each boil. It takes more time than simply heating the honey once, but the result is better.

Yield: about 20 bars (9x3 cm with a thickness of 0.7 cm)

125 g runny honey (I used Greek thyme honey)
200 g white sesame seeds

Special equipment: baking paper, rolling pin

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the honey and place on medium heat. Bring to the boil, without stirring it, and remove pan from the heat. Leave honey to cool completely and then put it on medium heat again and bring it to the boil, without stirring it. Remove from the heat, leave it to cool completely.

On a clean work surface, lay a large piece of baking paper and have ready another piece.

Place the honey back on medium heat a third time. Bring it to the boil, without stirring it, and immediately add the sesame seeds to the pan. Using a wooden spatula, mix the sesame seeds in the honey until the honey is absorbed by the seeds. It will take 3-4 minutes if you want a sticky and slightly soft pasteli. If you mix for 2-3 minutes more, you’ll get a crunchier and drier pasteli.

Take it off the heat and immediately empty the mixture onto the prepared baking paper. Spread it a bit with the wooden spoon and place the second piece of baking paper on top. Using a rolling pin, roll out the mixture. You want it to have a thickness of approximately 0.7 cm. Leave it to cool completely and then remove the top piece of baking paper.

The pasteli should be cut into small bars (approximately 9x3 cm). To cut it neatly and without difficulty, add some vegetable oil to a piece of kitchen paper and rub the blade of a large knife. This way the pasteli won’t stick to the knife when you cut it into bars. If you find that the knife is sticking, rub the blade with more oil.

You can keep the pasteli for 1 month, in an airtight container or a tin box, between pieces of baking paper so the bars don’t stick together.


  1. I have just been thinking what new ice cream combination to try this week end and this sounds like a winner. I think the pasteli could even work broken up into the ice cream for some crunch... Hope you have a good and cooler week end.

    1. Broken up into the ice cream would be great! Yes, the weekend was cooler but today is again too hot!!

  2. Hi Madga, I love pasteli!!!!! When I was in Greece I was totally addicted to it, not only with seeds but also with nuts mix etc. Though the sesame seeds version is my favorite. I'm soooooooo going to give it a go at doing at home (even because we cannot find pasteli in Portugal...

    1. I prefer the one with the sesame seeds and you're right, it's totally addictive.

  3. The ice cream looks incredible and is similar to one I make using honey and - you guessed it - lavender! But the thing I am most excited about are the pasteli. They are one of Mark's favorite treats and I will be making them this weekend. Even though we are dieting, a little honey and sesame cannot possibly be bad for you, right? ~ David

    1. Mmm honey and lavender ice cream must be wonderful. Pasteli is perfect for dieting :)

  4. Love pastelly as well, didn't think about making them myself but now i'll try. Do you also make halva yourself? Love that as well but a good quality one is hard to get in brussels. Mmh thinking about halva ice cream now, that must be a winner!

    1. No, I don't usually make halva myself, I buy it ready-made. Halva ice cream must be a winner indeed!

  5. I really love the idea of this. Simply delicious!


  6. Some weeks it's constantly raining and it feels like summer will never arrive and we hope the warm, sunny days will soon appear, and other weeks it is too hot and too humid to function and people keep wishing for cooler days - Dutch weather can suck big time, luckily you have lovely ice cream to comfort you

    1. Dutch weather is crazy. I don't like it one bit. I hope one day I'll get used to it...

  7. Gorgeous photos!!! It's my first time visiting your blog and its beautiful. This ice cream and sesame bars sound like they work so well together. Can't wait to explore more.

  8. Hello! I just discovered your blog (at three in the morning... I have twin baby girls who don't let me sleep at nights) and I have to say that it's been a long time since a blog has captivated me the way yours has. Your stories, recipes and photography are absolutely awe inspiring! I live in Los Angeles but I had the pleasure of spending my honeymoon in Greece; Athens, Santorini and Mykonos to be exact. Thank you for transporting me back to Greece with your blog!

  9. My oh my Magda does this look delish. Anything with Greek honey makes me smile and I'm a huge fan of Pasteli!! I'm thrilled you shared a recipe for pasteli here and your honey, milk ice cream sounds light, flavorful and just wonderful.