Knafeh is a dessert made of layers of crispy dough and sweet cheese. Its crispy exterior and its melting, cheesy center create a symphony of delicious flavors for the pleasure of the taste buds.
This delightful creation, with a history dating back centuries, originates from the city of Nablus in Palestine. By recreating this iconic dessert, we aim to pay tribute to the Palestinian people, their resilience, and their cuisine rich in flavors.
To allow you to easily make this delicacy at home, we have adapted some ingredients while preserving the essence of the traditional recipe. The essential element remains the kataifi, these thin strips of phyllo dough, which you can find in Middle Eastern (and sometimes Asian) grocery stores in the frozen products aisle, alongside puff pastry and phyllo dough.
To add a Thousand and One Nuts touch, we adorned ours with pistachio butter for a gourmet note that enhances this oriental creation.
- 1 lb Kataifi (shredded phyllo dough) - usually 1 package
- ¾ cup butter or ghee + more for brushing the inside of the pan
- 1 tbsp Knafeh food coloring *optional
- 1 pound sweet cheese (such as ricotta or Queso Fresco)
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, pressed dry
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- Rose water extract to taste *optional
- Chopped pistachios and pistachio butter for decoration
- Prepare the cheeses. Cut the mozzarella and Queso into ¼" slices and press between paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible (skip this step if using ricotta).
- Preheat the oven to 450 °F and prepare your pan(s) by brushing them with butter.
- In a large bowl, tear the kataifi into 1 to 3-inch strands.
- Melt the butter or ghee in the microwave. Mix the melted butter or ghee with food coloring (optional) and add it to the kataifi. Mix carefully with your hands to ensure all strands are coated.
- Add ¾ of the kataifi into the pan(s) and press firmly. Let the edges be higher than the center, somewhat like a pie crust. (The ideal height of the Knafeh after layering should be less than 1 inch. That's why you might need multiple baking pans.)
- Add a layer of crumbled rigotte or Queso. Then, add a layer of torn-up mozzarella.
- Add the remaining kataifi on top and press.
- Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the Knafeh is golden and crispy on the edges and underneath. It should easily come away from the pan.
- While baking, prepare the syrup by mixing sugar, water, and rose water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for only 1 to 2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool.
- Once the Knafeh is cooked, carefully flip it onto a serving dish. Using a large spoon, gently soak the Knafeh with the syrup.
- Decorate with pistachio butter and chopped pistachios, cut, and serve! (Knafeh is best served warm).