There is no denying that Geymar served with Kahi is the ultimate indulgent breakfast of Iraq. Layers of buttery pastry, topped with a dollop of geymar, and smothered in honey, date molasses or simple syrup. And don't forget the cup of hot tea. Believe it or not, this luxurious breakfast, also known as Kaymak in Turkey, can be made at home!
Table of contents
What is Geymar or Kaymak?
Geymar, as it is known in Iraq, is a thickened cream typically made from the milk of water buffalos that roamed southern Iraq's marshes. Water buffalo milk is known to have a large percentage of fat (typically 40% - 60%) and therefore it was the best milk to use for making geymar. The milk is cooked on low heat and then cooled overnight, resulting in a thick layer of cream. The cream is extracted by rolling it and creating geymar rolls (which we call a "fal"). It is typically served for breakfast with honey, date molasses, or simple syrup on flaky pastry called Kahi.
Ask any Iraqi you know, and they will tell you about the nostalgia and memories attached to this national dish. It is most certainly served at every celebration and on a regular day from time to time. Having left Iraq when I was 5, I learned about and came to appreciate geymar from my parents. And once introduced to it, there was no going back. Now I make it at home!
Geymar is also known as Kaymak in Turkey, and it's just as popular there as it is in Iraq, as I came to find out when I visited Istanbul in 2019. Kaymak was served on every breakfast spread, with a plate of honey close beside it. It is also widely consumed in the Balkans (Kajmak), as well as Iran, Afghanistan, and Greece. I also learned that it's very similar to Malai, which is a clotted cream from the Indian subcontinent.
How do you make it at home?
Because in North America (Canada for me!) I can't access water buffalo milk, my family has come up with the next best thing, which is a mixture of whole milk and 35% whipping cream in a 1:1 ratio. For those unfamiliar with whipping cream, it is in liquid form and you can usually find it in the milk aisle. It may also be called heavy cream - just make sure it's at least 35% fat.
What ingredients do you need?
- Whole milk, and the better the quality the better the result. That means organic, grass fed milk if possible. Pasteurized milk should work.
- 35% Whipping cream or heavy cream which is in liquid form and can be found in the dairy aisle
- For the Kahi, puff pastry
- For serving, honey, date molasses or jam
The process (which is easy!)
- In a shallow pan (the best thing to use is a sheet pan), add the whole milk and the whipping cream in equal ratios. A shallow pan is needed to maximize the surface area and get a nice roll of cream. You can use a regular pot, it works too. It just may not be an easy to roll layer of cream
- Without stirring, place the pan on the stove on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until you start to see small bubbles form. It's important not to boil it.
- When bubbles form, reduce heat to low and leave it for 2 hours (no stirring!)
- After 2 hours, allow it to cool to room temperature then place it in the fridge overnight for a minimum of 12 hours
- Skim the layer of cream from the top by cutting a strip and rolling it using a spoon (see below)
- Either discard the milk remaining or use in baking or to make homemade yogurt
Can I use the oven?
I know that British clotted cream is made using a low oven temperature. However, Geymar is slightly different in both taste and texture and relies on the low heat on the sheet pan to thicken it properly and achieve the right texture. I have never made it using the oven!
How to serve Geymar / Kaymak
What is Kahi?
Geymar is typically served with a pastry called Kahi in Iraq. Kahi is a buttery layered pastry, very similar to the South Asian paratha. I have never made it from scratch, because the easiest hack for Kahi is puff pastry! It's a really similar type of dough and tastes delicious with it. You can usually find puff pastry in square shapes, ready to bake. If not, you can always buy ready made puff pastry and roll it out, then cut it into square shapes, and bake it per package instructions. I have also tried to re-create Kahi using layers of phyllo dough, but ends up being too crunchy, and I prefer the puff pastry.
In Mosul, the town I am from in Iraq, geymar is most commonly served with Iraqi bread vs Kahi. In Turkey, Kaymak is served with bread as well. But no matter what your carb of choice is, it is typically always served with either honey, date molasses (dibis), simple syrup or a variety of jams. My absolute favourite way of eating it is in Arabic bread with a drizzle of honey.
I almost forgot. It's always served with a hot cup of tea.
Geymar is best consumed fresh or within 1-2 days, so I would only make as much as you will eat. Since it is quite heavy, each person will usually only have a dollop or two, so keep that in mind! If storing, keep it in an airtight container for up to a maximum of 5 days, although the quality will start to diminish. Another alternative if you've made too much is to place it in airtight containers and freeze it. Thaw it at room temperate and it'll be as good as new.
For more breakfast recipes, check out:
Kaymak / Geymar with Kahi (Iraqi clotted cream)
For the Geymar:
- 1 L whole milk organic
- 1 L 35% whipping cream may also be called heavy cream
For the Kahi and Serving:
- puff pastry squares 1 per person
- Date molasses optional
- Jam optional
- Arabic bread optional
- In a shallow large sheet pan (I used a 16 x 12 x 1 inch sheet pan) add the milk and the whipping cream without stirring. Do this while the pan is already placed on the stove so you don't need to transfer it and risk spilling
- Turn the heat to medium and wait for bubbles to start forming. This should take about 10 minutes
- Once bubbles form, turn the heat down to low and leave it for 2 hours. Do not stir!
- After 2 hours, allow it to cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge overnight for a minimum of 12 hours
- To serve, use a knife to cut a long "strip" of thickened cream and roll it onto itself using a spoon. Do this until you run out of cream. Discard the remaining milk or use in baking / to make yogurt
- Bake the puff pastry squares per package instructions until golden
- Serve the geymar with the puff pastry and honey, date molasses and/or jam per preference. You may also serve it with Arabic bread
- It is best to use high quality milk, so preferably grass fed organic milk. Pasteurized should work.
- You can also use a regular pot to make geymar. It will work but you may not end up with an easy to roll cream layer