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Warbat: The Popular Cream-Filled Pastry of the Middle East

posted on: Oct 18, 2023

Warbat: The Popular Cream-Filled Pastry of the Middle East

By: Blanche Shaheen / Arab America Contributing Writer

Sometimes the translation of Arabic words to English doesn’t work out so well. Take the popular dessert called Warbat, pronounced warr-bot. Most people might envision a warrior bat, angry and ready to fight. In reality, warbat refers to a buttery, flaky and rich turnover filled with a mildly sweet custard. This pastry is then drizzled in fragrant lemon and rose syrup then sprinkled with pistachios. While this pastry is popular in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, there are many variations sold throughout the middle east. Some contain walnuts, others pistachios, some contain a semolina-based custard, and still, others have a pure dairy custard. 

The name of the sweet cream that goes into the pastry is generally called “ashta.”  Ashta has a consistency that is similar to clotted cream. Therefore this dessert is also referred to as “Warbat bil Ashta.”  Like baklava, the triangular-shaped phyllo layers have that rich brown butter flavor, although melted ghee is traditionally used to coat the dough. 

This rich dessert is usually served for special occasions like weddings, showers, and holidays like Ramadan. The perfect accompaniment to this sweet and decadent treat is unsweetened cardamom tea or a strong Arabic coffee. I lived for the special occasions when my mother would make this sweet treat. Taking my fork and cutting through those buttery layers of dough to reveal the sweet cream inside never gets old!  In seeking a bakery-style warbat in the United States, I found one that rivals any pastry shop in the middle east in a strip mall in Silicon Valley. 

Pastry chef Maya of Oasis Baklava shares her innovative recipe and techniques for how to make the ultimate warbat in the video below: 


For ashta (cream) filling:

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Dash salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Whisk the ingredients in a saucepan first, then put over medium heat and whisk for 10 minutes or until thick. If the mixture is too watery, add 2 more tbsp of cornstarch to a small amount of milk and add it to the rest to thicken it up. Store the cream mixture in a bowl, and cover. Refrigerate overnight.

  • 18 Sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 cup melted ghee

Cut the phyllo sheets into 12 even squares, using a ruler to make things even. Using an ice cream scooper, put an ice cream-sized scoop of the ashta into each square. Fold over like a turnover, pressing down on the edges to seal. Arrange the 4 of the turnovers 4 to make a large square. Repeat with the rest of the turnovers to make two more large squares. Pour melted ghee evenly over each one, then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Sugar (Attar):

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange blossom water

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, on high heat until boiling. Lower the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until syrupy, you want the syrup to coat the spoon when it’s done.  Add the lemon juice and orange blossom water and let cool before pouring over warbat pastry. After baking, pour the cooled syrup over the hot pastry, top with optional ground pistachios, and serve immediately.

Blanche Shaheen is the author of the cookbook called “Feast In the Middle East, a Journey of Family and Cuisine”  which you can order here:   She is also a journalist, and host of the popular cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.  You can check out her cooking video tutorials at  Her recipes can also be found at 

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