Knefe is one of the best desserts in the entire world.... & I'm not just saying that because I'm Middle Eastern. I have many friends, customers, and vendors of different ethnicities who love this Middle Eastern dessert. I mean think about it... a rich, sweet, cheesy center with a crispy topping, doesn't that sound amazing? Well, the answer is yes. The combination of crispy filo pastry, gooey melted cheese, and fragrant syrup make knefe an irresistible treat for those with a sweet tooth. The contrasting textures of the crunchy exterior and soft interior create a delightful mouthfeel that keeps people coming back for more. The addition of aromatic floral waters adds a unique flavor profile to the dessert, giving it a distinct Middle Eastern taste. Whether enjoyed as a breakfast dish with a cup of tea or as a decadent after-dinner treat, knefe is beloved by many for its deliciousness and cultural significance.
In the Middle East, no one really makes Knefe at home. There are so many places that make it in every city. It's a reason to go out! I have two favorite places in Amman, Jordan that I visit about three times a week when I'm there. The first and my favorite is Nafeeseh Sweets on the 7th Circle and the other is Aghati in Dabouq. Here, though, we have to make it at home because you cannot find it everywhere and when you do find it it just doesn't taste the same as back home. My family has made Knefe at home for years like I grew up on this. When I learned to make this dessert, however, I didn't learn it from my family, but from my best friend. She taught me well and it was amazing, but my family didn't approve because they don't like all kinds of cheese. So, I changed the cheese mix and now they love it my way.
4 tablespoons clarified butter
1/4 teaspoon Knefe coloring or Orange food dye
1 (1 pound) Pack Katayfi dough*
3/4 brick sweet cheese*
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 cup Simple Syrup (recipe below)
In a blender, shred katayif dough. Place in a bowl.
In a blender, shred the sweet cheese and mozzarella cheese. Place in a different bowl.
To the sweet cheese mix, add the ricotta cheese and mix till well incorporated.
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a 15 inch round deep tray, add the 4 tablespoons of clarified butter semi-melted and the Knefe coloring. Spread all over bottom of tray making sure color is incorporated and tray is evenly covered.
Spread 2/3 of shredded katayif dough in tray. Make sure it's even and pressed down.
Spread the cheese mix on top. Make sure it's even and pressed down. Stay away about a centimeter from the edge of the tray.
Spread the remaining 1/3 of the katayif dough on top. Make sure it's even and all cheese is covered.
Semi-melt the second 3 tablespoons of clarified butter and evenly dollop pieces on top.
Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp on bottom and bubbly on top.
Remove from oven, pour simple syrup on top. Flip onto a bigger tray and serve topped with ground pistachios or as is with tea or coffee!
*Can be found in most Middle Eastern markets.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil.
Once it starts to boil, add in lemon juice and let thicken a little.
Remove from heat.
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #EATDRINKPLAYLA. I'd love to see how yours turned out!