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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Recipe Round Up: Knaffeh

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This is really like a cheese filled, easy version of baq'lawa. It takes much less effort, and is quite tasty. However, you do need to find some ingredients that may not be common in your grocery store. Please check out a Middle Eastern, Arabic, or Indian market, as they are likely to have what you need, as well as some other treasures. Often at a really good price, too! The process for making this is made much simpler if you have a food processor, but if you don't, you can still tear up the dough by hand. It will just take longer.

The syrup can be made ahead of time. In fact, it is better to do so, because then you will be adding cold syrup to the hot pastry and it will stay crisp and lovely. You can store it in a jar in your refrigerator for at least a week.

This is best served hot when the cheese is still melty. In fact, it is best to reheat it if you have some left over. However, nobody has ever complained about eating it cold the next day.

Knaffeh

Syrup (Sheera):
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 whole cardamom pods
2 tablespoons rosewater
1 tablespoon lemon juice (save the rest for rosewater lemonade or to add to your hummus or salad dressing or any number of delicious things)

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more to grease the pan
1 16 ounce box shredded phyllo dough (often sold as gataifi or kataifi dough), chopped finely in a food processor or torn into small shreds by hand or with a knife
16 ounces sweet knaffeh cheese, sliced thinly (if you are lucky enough to have an Arabic market - otherwise, substitute fresh mozzarella and soak it in fresh water after slicing it to remove some of the salt and then drain it well)

Bring the sugar, water, and cardamom pods to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the syrup comes to a boil, leave the heat on for one minute, then turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the rosewater and lemon juice, and cool in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 375˚F and grease the bottom and sides of a 10 X 15 inch or lasagna pan generously.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and shredded dough until each piece is coated in butter. Sprinkle half of the dough into the bottom of the pan, patting it in to cover the bottom, leaving no holes. Layer the sliced cheese over the top, in a single layer, to cover the entire surface. Sprinkle the remaining dough mixture over the top, patting it down in an even layer over the top of the cheese. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.

Either fish out the cardamom pods from the syrup, or pour the syrup through a sieve, and evenly pour the syrup over the entire pan, so the pastry sizzles and the syrup starts to be absorbed. Allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes to fully absorb the syrup. This really works best when the syrup is cold and the pastry is hot. Or when the pastry is cold and the syrup is hot, but that is harder for me to arrange. Cut into squares and serve.

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