You say k’nafeh, kunafah, or kunafeh. Equally scrumptious by any name, this middle eastern sweet is bit like Baklava, only more fun.
To make fine kataifi, the flour and water batter used to make phyllo is drizzled onto a hot plate in long threads. When dried, the noodles are gathered into a skein. Kataifi is now available in the frozen section of most grocery stores, right next to the phyllo.
It is much easier to handle than phyllo sheets. With phyllo, I’m worried about it drying out or tearing. Kataifi doesn’t dry out that easily and you’re actually supposed to tear it apart. A dessert full of win.
For the layers of dough:
1 lb/1 box frozen kataifi, thawed (Leave it on the counter for 2 hours to thaw)
1 stick of unsalted butter/ghee (most recipes suggest 4 sticks/1 lb. I found 1 stick/4 oz to be enough.)
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
– Melt the butter in a microwave/on stovetop, and pour in your largest mixing bowl. Open the kataifi package and put the skein of dough on a large plate. With your hands, break off handfuls of shredded kataifi from the skein, dropping it in the bowl. When all the noodles are in the bowl, dig in with your hands and turn them over a few times, distributing the butter/ghee evenly.
For the syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 pods green cardomom, coarsely ground
1 tsp rose water
2 pieces of lemon peel
– In a non-reactive saucepan, add all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Simmer for ten minutes or so until you get a thick syrup and the lemon peel is candied. Avoid stirring too much as that can sometimes crystallize the syrup. Take off the heat and stir in the rose water. Strain the spices if you like (I leave them in). Oh, and eat the peel.
For the filling:
2 cups of your favorite nuts, toasted (I used a mix of almonds and walnuts)
2 tbsp sugar/honey
1 tsp rose water/orange blossom water
– Pulse all the ingredients together in a food processor until you get a coarsely ground filling. Individual pieces of nuts should still be visible- think granola.
-Layer half the kataifi in the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish. Sprinkle the nut filling on top, then cover with the remainder of kataifi. Put a plate/piece of foil on top and weigh down with your hands, compacting the pastry as much as possible. Remove the covering.
-With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into large squares, taking care not to cut down to the bottom of the pan.
-Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until the top layer is golden brown.
– Remove from the oven and pour ladles of cool syrup on top.
Serve as is or with clotted cream if you’re feeling especially fancy. This is an amazing dessert- the top layer of kataifi stays crunchy and barely sweet, while the bottom layer is soaked in syrup and melts in the mouth. The rose scented nut filling holds the two layers together and creates a delightful contrast.
I can’t wait to conduct more experiments with kataifi– maybe a savory dish with a spicy potato-pea filling?