Knafeh Knefeh

Knafeh (Na’ahme) – Probably the most popular dessert in the Levant

I really struggled to finally blog this classic. Knafeh is probably the most popular dessert in the Levant, Turkey and the entire Arab world. Everyone knows it and everyone loves it (exceptions prove the rule :P). Of course, every family has its own recipe and there are also some significant differences from country to country. This version is called Knafe Na’ahme and is the Lebanese version of a dessert dream.

What is Knafeh anyway?

Knafeh is a dessert that in most cases consists of a ” cover ” and a bottom layer of hot melting cheese. On top, you then pour a sugar syrup to taste.

The cover

In most cases, the cover of Knafeh is made of kadaifi (or kataifi). This is a wafer-thin dough that is made into super fine noodles. Kadaifi also has the nickname “angel hair”, precisely because it is so thin and fine.

The cheese

The cheese used is usually desalted as much as possible. So you’d better not use a Gouda. Typically, a white cheese is used. But don’t worry, you don’t have to get on a plane to prepare Knafeh. By the way, the cover varies depending on the country and the recipe. In Lebanon, they like to use a cover made of semolina. This is the case, for example, with the version that I would like to present to you here.

In Lebanon, people love Knafeh tender and for breakfast

Knafeh Na’ahme means tender or gentle Knefeh. The dessert was given this name because the cover is made of semolina dough. This semolina dough is pre-baked and ground into a powder once more after baking. Only then is it processed into the cover with butter or ghee. Okay, so you see, you don’t necessarily need the special ingredient kadaifi. But you don’t necessarily have to master the semolina dough procedure either. I know a super shortcut thanks to my sister….

Before I tell you the shortcut, it’s important to know that the Lebanese are crazy about Knafeh for breakfast. But not just any old way, they actually make a sandwich out of it! For bread, you take delicious kaak, stuff it full of Knafeh (or Knefeh) and pour in a good dash of sugar syrup.

Everyone is allowed to cheat a little

I really thought long and hard about whether it would be OK to cheat here. You can’t get kadaifi everywhere, and you can’t get the cheese anyway. But I really want everyone to be able to make Knefeh at home. So let’s go and find the main ingredients, which you can also get here in any supermarket.

My sister’s secret

My sister tells me about Knafeh “Kisbeh”. Kisbeh means “cheated” or “lie”. Don’t worry, I don’t want you to lie. It’s about imitating ingredients and speeding up the preparation: a shortcut. Okay, instead of kadaifi or semolina dough, we now resort to commercial rusks and instead of a cheese from Lebanon, we use mozzarella. By the way, the mozzarella version is already very popular with Knefeh, as the cheese is also mild, melts very well and makes nice strings.

And to make the cheese layer really super creamy and cheesy, we add a layer of delicious semolina pudding. Then Knefeh becomes even more delicious, fluffy and creamy.

But regardless of whether it’s shortened, cheated or anything else: you should definitely try Knefeh!

Recipe for Knafeh

Knafeh Knefeh

Knafeh (Na’ahme)

The Lebanese version of a Levant classic.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Equipment

  • 26 cm springform pan
  • Serving plate with approx. 30 cm diameter

Ingredients

Sugar syrup

  • 180 g Sugar
  • 150 ml Water
  • 1 tsp Orange blossom water
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice

For the cover

  • 100 g Rusk
  • 60 g Butter
  • 1 tsp Rose water
  • 1 tsp Orange blossom water

Cheese layer

  • 3 balls of Mozzarella

For the pudding

  • 400 ml Milk
  • 50 g Soft wheat semolina
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Rose water
  • 1 tsp Orange blossom water

Garnish

  • 20 g chopped pistachios

Instructions

Sugar syrup

  • Heat the sugar and water over high heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and reduce to medium. Simmer for approx. 5 minutes until a thin syrup has developed. The syrup will thicken further as it cools. Allow the syrup to cool.

Cover

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C / 392 F.
  • To make the cover, grind the rusks in a blender until they are a uniform, slightly coarse powder. If you don't have a blender, you can also put the rusk in a freezer bag, seal it and beat it with a rolling pin until it is crumbly.
  • Mix the rusk powder with butter and rose and orange blossom water.
  • Butter the base of the springform pan or line it with baking paper. I recommend baking paper: only line the bottom and clamp the ring onto the paper so that the paper peeks out. Cut away the paper on the outside with scissors. This way, only the bottom is covered with paper.
  • Spread the rusk mixture over the base and press down gently.

Cheese layer

  • Allow the mozarella to drain properly for about 5 minutes, cut into slices and place on the rusk cover.

Pudding

  • Mix all the ingredients for the pudding together, bring to the boil and allow to thicken to a creamy pudding for about 5 minutes while stirring.
  • Pour the pudding on top of the cheese layer and bake the Knefeh in the oven for approx. 20 minutes.

Knafeh

  • Remove the Knafeh from the oven, use a spatula or butter knife to loosen the sides of the Knefeh from the edge of the springform pan and carefully open the springform pan.
  • Place an appropriately sized plate on top of the Knefeh and carefully turn it upside down (hot!!). Carefully remove the base of the springform pan and the baking paper from the lid.
  • Garnish the Knafeh immediately with pistachios and serve still hot with sugar syrup.
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Also try Muhalabia.

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