Knafeh (כנאפה)

What is Knafeh?

It's a shredded phyllo pastry dessert filled with sweet cheese and a sugary syrup which is poured over it. The end result is a baked stretchy cheese deliciousness.

It’s been served in Middle-Eastern style restaurants forever but all of a sudden this old time Israeli/Turkish/Arab dessert (and more, I don’t want to leave anyone out) has become the most popular dessert in Israel!

It is the most decadent and divine Middle-Eastern dessert.

I see it on menus all around Israel now and it has become the number one asked for and talked about cake.

Every region and every family has their own recipe. All a little different mainly in the type of cheese which is used.

You can use whichever cheese you prefer or might have in your refrigerator. Traditionally a stringy stretchy type cheese is used but often now I see it made with Ricotta cheese which does not have the stringy effect but is a little lighter in calories.

I have tried many combinations of cheese and I came up with two favorite ones. But I have to say all were really good and tasty!

So here’s what you need for my version of this amazing dessert!

I’m sharing both versions so you chose!

Here’s what you’ll need!

First, Kadaiif pastry. it is a noodle like phyllo pastry. It is not pasta though it resembles it. This can be found in the freezer section of Israeli or Middle-Eastern supermarkets. It is available dried too but I prefer the frozen for a fresher result.

Version 1. The traditional stretchy cheese Kenafeh.

You need half the packet of Kadaiif which is about. 250 grams. 50-100 grams of butter. If you like a more buttery taste add the 100 gr. I used 50 gr.

The filling

300 grams of fresh mozzarella.

2 tablespoons powdered sugar. (you can leave the sugar out if you prefer a less sweet filling)

The syrup

1¼ cups white sugar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Thinly shaved lemon peel slices - about 3-4

½ teaspoon rose water (optional but adds an authentic flavor)

The topping

½ cup of pistachios


Heat Oven to 350 deg farenheight

Make Syrup

In a small pan add water ,sugar, vanilla extract and rose water and bring to a boil.

Slice a few thin sections of lemon peel and add to the liquid.

Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until syrup thickens a little. Set aside and let cool completely.

Open the packet of Kadaiif and cut amount in half. Put one half back in the freezer. Pull apart the Kadaiif pastry with your hands separating it all.

Cut it up into small pieces with scissors, that helps separate it

Heat the butter in the microwave and pour into cut and separated Kadaiif. Mix well with your hands.

Spray the dish you are using with any oil spray covering the pan well to avoid any sticking. You can also use a stick of butter to grease the pan.

Add the Kadaiif to your baking tray or plate. I used a cake pan of about 9" round and I have also used a glass pie dish.Pat down the Kadaiif all around the plate and use something heavy to press it in well. With your hand make a round pattern like a pizza.

Tear apart or cut the fresh Mozzarella. Sprinkle the powdered sugar on top and add to the Kadaiif in the pan. Make sure you don't put the cheese up to the edges or it will burn in the baking. Leave about an inch at least from the edge.

Cover with the rest of the Kadaiif.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until golden on top.

Version 2. The Ricotta and Mozzarella version.

Follow everything the same exact way as the first version. The only difference is in the filling

Ingredients for filling.

200 grams fresh Mozarella

200 grams Ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Mix cheeses together with sugar

Spoon cheese mix on top of Kadaiif. Make sure you don't put the cheese up to the edges or it will burn in the baking. Leave about a ½ inch at least from the edge.

Cover with the rest of the Kadaiif and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden.

Crush the pistachios by putting them in a ziplock bag and smashing them with a roller pin. Or use a food processor. Set aside.

This is how the Kenafeh should look when it is ready to come out of the oven. Golden in color

Immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot Kenafeh covering it all including the sides and letting the Kenafeh soak it all up.

Add broken up pistachios on top.

Serve hot. Keep refrigerated. Enjoy!

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