• Rabab Awada

Cheese Knefah



INGREDIENTS:


FOR THE SCENTED SUGAR SYRUP:

  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar

  • 1 cup (230g) water

  • Squeeze of lemon

  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water (more or less to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water (more or less to taste)

FOR THE CHEESE FILLING:

  • 500g Shelal (or Shellala/Meshalela) cheese (preferably without black sesame)

  • 300g Akkawi Tchiki Cheese

FOR THE KNAFEH CRUST (FARKEH):

  • 375g kunafa (aka kataifi dough), fresh or frozen

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (94g) melted ghee (or clarified butter

  • 3 tablespoons (60g) scented sugar syrup

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) ghee or butter, at room temperature, for cooking the knafeh

  • Ground pistachios, for garnish (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS:


TO MAKE THE SCENTED SIMPLE SYRUP:

  • In a medium saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon juice. Set on the stove top over medium high heat.

  • Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for no longer than 10 minutes. Stir in the orange blossom.

TO MAKE THE CHEESE FILLING:

  • Using a sharp knife, thinly slice both the shelal and akkawi cheese. Place each kind of cheese in a separate bowl and cover with lukewarm tap water to remove the saltiness. Allow the cheese to soak for 2 to 6 hours, changing the water every 1/2 hour, until the cheese is no longer salty to the taste. Amount of soaking time will vary depending on the cheese's salt content, which is why they are placed in separate bowl.

  • Drain both cheeses through a colander, squeezing them with your hand or back of a spoon to remove any excess liquid. Crumble both cheeses together with your hands or in food processor to evenly combine.

TO MAKE THE KNAFEH CRUST (FARKET EL KNAFEH):

SPICE GRINDER METHOD:

  • In a spice grinder, process the kunafa in batches until very finely ground and powdery. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the ghee or butter if used and 3 tablespoons of scented sugar syrup until well combined and homogenous.

TO MAKE THE KNEFA

  • Brush a 34cm aluminum or copper pan ONLY with the 2 tablespoons of room temperature ghee or butter. Remove 3 tablespoons of the farkeh and set aside. Evenly sprinkle the remaining farkeh over the bottom of the pan, compressing it with your hand into a compact, even layer that is about 3/4cm thick.

  • Spread the cheese mix over the knafeh crust, leaving a 2cm border around the edge uncovered.

  • Set the pan over one side of the stove top, making sure the flame is covering only half the pan's bottom. If the pan is centered over the stove top, the center of the knafeh will burn, before the sides get a chance to cook. If using an electric stove, set the heat to medium high; if using a gas stove, set it to medium. Using tongs in one hand and wearing oven mitts in the other, rotate the pan continuously for even baking, patting the cheese with a clean cloth or kitchen towels to absorb any released moisture. Continue rotating the pan until the the very edge of the crust turns deep golden brown and the cheese is mostly melted; 10 to 15 minutes. The edge of the crust is your indicator; whatever color it is, is the actual color of the knafeh's bottom. Remove pan from over the heat.

  • Sprinkle the reserved 3 tablespoons of farkeh over the cheese layer to absorb any excess moisture and to prevent the cheese from sticking to the serving platter.

  • Grease serving platter with ghee, then invert the knafeh on it, so that the cheese layer is on the bottom and the crust is on the top. Pour enough cooled scented sugar syrup over the knafeh's surface to cover it, about 3/4 cup. Spread the syrup with a spatula to even out the saturation. Garnish the surface with ground pistachios if desired.