Growing up in Israel, I was lucky to have the opportunity to eat quite a few good Knafehs throughout my lifetime… It is hard to decide what makes this dreamy, creamy and crunchy dessert such a winner…Is it the complex texture of the Kadaif Phyllo dough? Or is it the creaminess and tanginess combo flavors of the sweet cheese in the middle? Maybe it is the fact that all of this goodness is soaked in that one of a kind ‘Asal’ syrup of sugar, lemon juice and rose water and topped with crushed pistachios?
What’s the Meaning…
I once heard that the word “Knafeh” (Kanafeh) comes from the Turkish word “Kunefa” and is referred to… a not very good-looking woman… (???) Surprising and even insulting if you ask me… I mean, here we have one of the most loved desserts of all time, perfect in any form and way and the meaning of its name is “an ugly woman”?
I still do not get it; there is truly nothing ugly about Knafeh at all!
The only “ugly” situation involving Knafeh that I can think of is not serving this dish right away while it is fresh and still warm. So back to our “ugly woman”- perhaps the name tries to suggest how fresh this dessert needs to be when served or else it “can get ugly”? The good news are that making Knafeh takes just a few minutes, so be ready to make it and eat it right away…
I was still on a mission to find an alternative meaning to Knafeh that is more positive, something better than “an ugly woman”.
Here is my suggestion: The word “Knafeh” reminds me of the Hebrew word “Kanaf” which means wing, and connects me to the freedom and creativity Knafeh suggests in creating varies dishes. Endless options in the same genius method. What can I say- Knafeh gives me wings! 🙂
As much as I’m familiar with Knafeh and as much as I LOVE Knafeh, I never made it at home… It must be due to the fact that good Knafeh was always available in the yummy streets of Israel. Well… something happened couple of weeks ago …I was shopping in a local international produce market when I noticed Kadaif pastry! Kadaif aka Kataif is a type of Phyllo dough that is formed into long thin noodle threads and that is mainly used in Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. When it is not freshly made, it usually can be found in the frozen section. It is truly magical what happens to this very special form of Phyllo dough once it is defrosted, brushed with butter and heated either in the oven or on a pan until it is golden brown. Just one bite of this magic will make you an instant fan and will spark your creativity to make many other dishes…
You will need:
8 oz. (225 gr.) Kadaif Pastry
Butter Spray or 2½ oz. (70 gr.) Butter
5 oz. Goat Cheese
2 cups Ricotta Cheese
2 tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Paste
For the ‘Asal’ Syrup:
¾ cup Sugar
1½ tbsp. Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)
½-¾ cup Water
1 DROP Rose Extract
For the Topping:
Let’s do this!
This is how to handle Kadaif pastry:
I usually defrost it (keeping it sealed) in the refrigerator the night before, and when I’m ready to use it I take it out. Once this thin pastry is exposed to air, it can dry very quickly; so I keep it covered or wrapped in a damp kitchen towel or paper towels. Get all the other ingredients ready before preparing the Kadaif pastry.
This cheese mixture doesn’t get any simpler than this:
Combine ricotta cheese, goat cheese, vanilla paste and two tablespoons of sugar.
Mix well until the mixture is unified.
Make sure you are using roasted UNSALTED pistachios …you know there’s a reason why I’m mentioning that 🙂 Just get them out of the shells.
This is usually a kitchen job my kids love to help with… and I love it too! The kids are part of making this great dessert and they get to practice their fine motor skills!
Once the pistachios are peeled, I moved them into a plastic bag and give them couple of bangs with my coffee mug. Breaking them just a little.
The ‘Asal’ Syrup-
In a small saucepan combine sugar, lemon and water. Cook on medium heat and stir to allow the sugar dissolve. Bring to a gentle boil. The syrup will start coming together once it starts forming small bubbles and becomes slightly sticky. Check the syrup texture between your fingers or on a spatula. Once the ‘Asal’ is ready and the heat is off, add ONE DROP of rose extract and mix it in. If you are using EXTRACT (vs. rose water) don’t be tempted to add any more than one drop. Rose extract is very powerful and even one more drop of it can make you feel like you are eating perfume…
O.K. back to our Kadaif pastry… Uncover the pastry and use your fingers gently to make sure all the threads are separated well.
Spray or brush it with some butter. It is very important to spread the butter evenly and this is the main reason I like to use a spray for this task. It is much easier to control the amount of butter. Move it around and just make sure everybody gets coated evenly.
Heat a nonstick wide pan on medium heat and place half of the Kadaif pastry onto the pan.
Add the cheese mixture on top and spread it around into one even layer.
Add the other half of Kadaif pastry on top, press down just a little and arrange well to cover it all evenly. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes until the bottom becomes golden brown. Just use a spatula to lift a little to peek at the bottom… We need to flip this Knafeh to the other side…
So once the bottom is golden brown, place a plate right on top of the pan. Carefully and with one move, flip the Knafeh onto the plate.
Carefully slide the Knafeh back to the pan to cook on the other side, once again until the surface is golden brown. This takes another 5 minutes or so…
For the final flip, get the serving dish ready, place it right on top of the pan and carefully with one move flip the Knafeh.
Generously brush the Knafeh with warm ‘Asal’ syrup. If the ‘Asal’ has cooled down in the meanwhile, you can warm it up a little.
Sprinkle the top with crushed pistachios and a few dry rose petals.
Doesn’t it look so pretty?
Once the topping is on, add a little more ‘Asal’ syrup on top of everything.
Serve Knafeh while still warm… cut yourself a piece and enjoy life’s sweetness!
Combine Goat Chesse, Ricotta Cheese, Vanilla Paste and Sugar.
Mix into a unified cheese mixture.
Separate the Kadaif pastry threads and spray or brush with Butter evenly.
Heat a nonstick wide pan and cook on medium heat.
Arrange half of Kadaif pastry in pan flat and evenly.
Spread an even layer of Cheese mixture on top.
Add remaining Kadaif pastry on top and press down to cover all evenly.
Cook on medium heat until bottom becomes golden brown.
Place a plate on top and flip one time.
Slide the Knafeh back to the pan to cook the other side.
Cook until the other side is golden brown as well.
Place serving plate on top and flip Knafeh onto the serving dish.
Brush evenly and generously with warm ‘Asal’.
Sprinkle with crushed Pistachios and a few Rose Petals.
Add a little more syrup on top.
Serve immediately while Knafeh is still warm.
For the ‘Asal’:
Combine Sugar, Lemon Juice and Water and bring to gentle boil.
Dissolve Sugar and cook until small bubbles surface.
Check for syrup slightly sticky texture and turn off the heat.
Add ONE DROP of Rose Extract and mix it in.