October 12, 2008

Kunafa (A scrumptious Arab pastry)

I'm always up for a baking challenge! This past Yom Kippur, my sister-in-law, Mariel, decided that she wanted to bake a really yummy Arab pastry that she had eaten in Jordan last summer. She drove all around Towson looking for a Middle Eastern market in order to buy some of the unique ingredients, such as Rose Water and kataifi (shredded phyllo dough). After all this effort, how could I not want to help her make this? We had to make a few modifications to the filling, since we didn't have farmers cheese. Mariel has this awesome Arab cookbook and they had a short blurb on how their Arab-American friends mix it up with some ricotta, powdered sugar and milk.

Kunafa is a really delicious dessert: layers of buttery sweet shredded dough baked over a sweet cheese filling, covered with rose water flavored sugar syrup and salty pistachios. I have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for all Middle Eastern foods and I couldn't wait to try this.

Kataifi (found in Middle Eastern or Greek markets)
1/2 lb clarified butter (instructions to follow)

Sugar Syrup:
1 - 2 tsp Rose Water (if you can't find it, vanilla flavoring would be okay, I think)
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water


32 oz ricotta cheese
2 TBS whole milk
3-4 TBS powdered sugar

Chopped pistachios (optional)
Red food coloring (optional)


Clarified Butter
This is butter that has all the milk solids removed. Melt the stick of butter in a saucepan, over medium heat. Be careful not to let the butter brown. Once all the butter has completely melted, removed it from the heat and let the pan sit for 3 minutes. Then, using a spoon, carefully remove the frothy layer on top. The golden liquid underneath is the clarified butter.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, mix the water and sugar. Bring to a boil and let it simmer to a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat, let cool and add rosewater or vanilla.

Mix the ricotta with milk and powdered sugar. At this point, you can add either vanilla or rose water to this filling mixture, if you would like a little extra flavor. I sprinkled on the rose water because I was so fascinated with it.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter either a 12-inch round cake pan or a 12-inch baking dish. Some people mix a drop or two of the red food coloring with the butter to give the kunafa a pink tinge, but this is optional.
Take the kataifi and place it on a large cutting board. Using a knife, gently break it up into smaller pieces, about 1/2 inch long or so. Put it all into a large bowl and pour the melted clarified butter on top. Using your hands, gently mix the butter and kataifi together, so all the pieces are well coated. This is messy, so have a towel nearby!

Take 1/2 the buttered dough and press it gently into your pan, being sure to evenly cover the bottom and up the sides. Spread the cheese mixture onto the dough, and then cover with the remaining dough. Press down gently. Bake until golden, 30-40 minutes.

Let it cool completely to room temperature. Invert onto serving plate, and drizzle the cooled syrup all over it. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios, slice and serve!


27Susans said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Happy New Year. Those pastries look great. I made Dorie's rugelach last week.