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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. An Arab semi hard white sheep's cheese called nabulsi is most often used.

It is hard to find outside the Middle East unless you go to a specialty grocery store. You can use any fresh brined semi hard cheese, like halloumi or queso blanco. If it is in salty water, change out the water and replace with fresh unsalted water 3 times and let the cheese sit for an hour at a time in the fresh water. This will take out the salt and it will be ready to use!

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.

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 sheep’s cheese.

If you are in a Middle Eastern supermarket and tell them you want cheese to make Kenafeh, they will know what to sell you. 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


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.

Butter a small to medium size frying pan with 1- 2 tablespoons of butter and heat for a minute. Add kadaiif and with a wooden spoon shape into a round. Cook on low heat being careful not to burn the bottom.

Mix the pondered sugar if desired or leave unsweetened. You will be adding the sweet syrup at the end so you chose how sweet you want the Kenafeh to be. We like it sweet. Add the sweet cheese cut up onto your kadaiif. Don't put the cheese right up to the edge since it can burn. Cook for about 2minutes on low.

Turn the Kenafeh over like an omelette. Use a plate to flip it.

Place back in pan and cook for a couple of minutes on low.

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 and serve hot!

Keep refrigerated and heat up in microwave for 15 seconds. Enjoy!

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