Knafeh is one of my all time favorite desserts. A crispy noodle “crust” layered with a sweet cheese filling is drizzled with rose water syrup. SO DELICIOUS!!!!!! I have become a connoisseur of Knafeh. I seek it out all over Israel, but when I’m home in the US, I have had to go without. This dessert is very typical in the Levant – the region once ruled by the Ottoman Empire. You can find it in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc. There are lots of variations on the knafeh – I’ve even had savory knafeh!
A few months ago, I was jonesing for some knafeh and decided to make it at home. I don’t know why I was scared of making it – knafeh is really easy to prepare! Once I made my first batch, I kicked myself. I could have been eating this delectable treat ALL. THE. TIME. Well, not all the time…
Last night, my apprentice and I made a tray of knafeh in celebration of Rosh Hashanah. There’s nothing better to ring in a sweet New Year and think about the land of milk and honey than this dessert.
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sachlab powder (if you can’t find it, use cornstarch)
2 teaspoons rose water or 2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 lbs ricotta cheese
1 lb kadaif noodles
1- 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts, optional
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rosewater or orange flower water
Combine sugar, lemon juice, rosewater and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the syrup thickens enough to coat the spoon. Let cool, then chill in the fridge until the knafeh is ready.
Heat oven to 350 F
Combine milk, cream, sugar and sachlab/cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved. When it begins to boil, stir in rosewater or orange blossom water. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, or until mixture is thick. Remove from heat. When it has cooled, add ricotta cheese, whisking until blended.
Shred the noodles in a bowl by hand until the pieces are as small as rice grains. Don’t worry if they’re bigger or if they’re uneven. The flavor will still be awesome.
Pour melted butter over noodles. Mix with hands, rubbing the butter into the strands to coat them well. Spread half the strands onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Flatten this layer firmly with your hands to cover the bottom up to the edges. Spread ricotta mixture over noodles. Spread remaining noodles on top of the ricotta mixture and press down.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until top is golden. Remove the knafeh from the oven and pour half the cold syrup over it immediately. Sprinkle pistachios over the top. Cut into pieces with a large, sharp knife. Serve right away with remaining syrup on the side.