We told you about compound desserts a couple of weeks ago. And we let you in on the latest local honey trend yesterday. Put these together with the dessert of choice for the season — ice cream — and you’ve got baklava ice cream.

Ice cream is the perfect medium for experimentation. Inspired both by the creative recipes in the book “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home” by Jeni Britton Bauer, and sticky-sweet-crisp baklava from the Armenian bakeries in Watertown, I decided to riff off the base recipe and create a new flavor. There are a few parts to this recipe, so it takes some planning ahead, but the payoff is worth it! A subtle honey-vanilla ice cream base yields to pockets of intensely spiced, crunchy nuts in a honeyed caramel, punctuated by flakes of buttery phyllo. Grab a jar of local honey and enjoy!


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons tapioca starch or corn starch
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened (4 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed (8 sheets)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw, whole unsalted pistachios or almonds
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions for the ice cream base:

  1. Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the tapioca starch or cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, cream, honey, corn syrup, sugar, and vanilla bean in a large saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium­high heat and boil for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the starch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium­-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  5. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. Remove the vanilla bean, pour into a container and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the deconstructed baklava:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush baking sheet with melted butter. Place one layer of phyllo dough onto baking sheet and brush top with butter. Layer another sheet on top and brush with butter. Repeat until you have a stack of 8 sheets of phyllo. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool. Do not turn off oven.
  2. Spread nuts on clean baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until toasted, about 9 minutes, stirring halfway through and checking during the last 2 to 3 minutes to prevent burning. They should smell toasty and nutty. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop nuts.
  3. Meanwhile, pour honey, cloves, and cinnamon stick into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and gently simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, watching carefully to make sure mixture does not boil over. At the 12-minute mark, using a metal spoon, drop a small amount of caramel onto a plate. Once cool, the caramel should be very sticky and not run down the plate, but not so firm that it’s difficult to scrape off. Continue cooking and retest if necessary. When the caramel has reached this consistency, remove from heat and carefully remove the cinnamon stick and cloves.
  4. Stir in salt, ground cinnamon, and the toasted nuts. Set aside. (Caramel can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.)

To make and assemble ice cream:

  1. Pour ice cream base into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Ice cream should be soft-serve consistency.
  2. In a 1 quart or larger freezer­-safe container, layer about 1 1/2 inches of ice cream, then crumble a layer of phyllo dough. Spread a layer of nut-caramel mixture. Repeat until container is full, reserving some phyllo for garnish. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Serve, garnishing with crisp phyllo.
Garnish the finished ice cream with extra golden phyllo for added buttery crunch.
Emily Balk