17
Oct

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Every time I visit Beirut, I have to have various dishes including ka’ket k’nafeh which is one of my favourite breakfasts, a luscious cheese pie drenched in sugar syrup then stuffed into a sesame galette the inside of which is also drenched in sugar syrup. An insanely delicious sweet sandwich that clocks in at more than a thousand calories a bite!

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Here is a short clip of the sweet-maker at Amal Bohsali making ka’ket k’nafeh and a recipe from my Lebanese cookbook. Though I have to warn you that however good you are (or will be) at making k’nafeh, it will never be as good as that at Amal Bohsali, the present Lebanese masters of k’nafeh. They still make it the traditional way with no short-cuts (they use the best ghee made from sheep’s milk and imported from France and still use rubbed hair pastry and not semolina like some other places); and no stinting on the quality of the cheese (akkawi and not some cheap mozzarella) and finally, they buy in the best ka’keh with no hint of vanilla to interfere with the taste of the k’nafeh.

K’nafeh bil-Jebn (Sweet Cheese Pie)

for the sugar syrup

350 g golden caster sugar

150 ml water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon rose water

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, occasionally stirring the mixture. Let boil for 3 minutes, then stir in the rose and orange blossom water and boil for a few seconds more. Take off the heat and let cool.

for the k’nafeh

300 g akkawi cheese

250 g hair pastry

125 g unsalted butter or ghee (samneh)

A few hours before

Cut the cheese into thin slices, about 5 mm thick and put to soak in cold water. Change the water at regular intervals, every 15 minutes or so, until the cheese has lost all trace of saltiness.

Finishing and serving

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

Chop the hair pastry into small pieces (about 1 cm). Put the chopped pastry in a wide pan and make a space in the centre. Weigh 100 g of butter (or samneh), cut it in small pieces and put in the middle of the pastry. Place over a low heat. Rub the melting fat into the pastry with your hands until all the shreds are well coated and the fat is completely melted, this will take a few minutes..

Grease a round baking dish which is the traditional shape (about 22.5 cm in diameter) or a rectangular one 1(8 x 32 x 3 cm) with the rest of the butter (or samneh). Spread the shredded pastry (or k’nafeh mafrukeh ) across the dish in an even layer and press it down with your hands. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.

Drain the cheese and when the time is up, take the pastry out of the oven and spread the cheese slices evenly over it. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the pastry underneath is golden brown.

Serve hot or warm. Ideally, you should turn the pie over onto a serving dish which you will have previously brushed with sugar syrup, so that the cheese does not stick. You can also cut the pie into pieces about 8 cm square and serve these upside down on a platter, again brushed with syrup, to show the golden pastry. However, because the pastry is quite crumbly, the presentation will not be as nice as if you turn over the whole pie. Pour a little sugar syrup all over the pastry and serve with more syrup on the side and with or without sesame galettes.

* You can vary on the above by replacing the cheese with qashtah (Arabic clotted cream; you will need 450 g). Prepare and serve as before.

* You can also cook the pie on top of the stove in which case it is best to use a round baking dish. Spread the cheese slices over the pastry and place the round baking dish over a low heat. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning the dish regularly to make sure the pastry browns evenly. When ready, the pie should move in one block if you shake the dish from side to side.

©Anissa Helou from Lebanese Cuisine


There is 27 comments on this post


  • I love knafe. Some people make the dough with semolina, I haven’t tried it yet do u think it works well?


  • it may work well enough. many people and sweet-makers use semolina but i don’t like it. should be easy to get hair pastry in paris :)


  • Ooh kanafeh – come to mama!!! :-)


  • I have never tried this. It sure looks like I have been missing something good! :D


  • Living in north Beirut during the war, the semolina version was all I knew. Would you know the recipe for the semolina version? I imagine it’s not much different, 1-2 cups semolina, and an amount of butter/semneh. About a year ago (in Pittsbugh, USA) out of desperation for knefeh :) I finally tried making home made knafeh, but with the ‘qtaife’ (hair pastry). It was spot on. I have yet to attempt the semolina version.

    Now if only the ka’ket was easy to find/make. I know it’s milk based, that’s about it.


  • i don’t like the semolina one so don’t have a recipe but i can look for you. and you”re right, ka’keh is not so easy to make :)


  • wow ! forget wheaties, this is the breakfast of champions ! watched the video for sure, you weren’t kidding when you said “drenched” in sugar syrup, wooh. i have never heard of anything like this before. and oh my, was that your voice in the video asking for an *extra* cheese pie to be put in the galette – 3 ?!?! wooh again. ;)

    i love the shape of it meanwhile, the little handle to hold on to. very cool. thanks so much for sharing.


  • I love sweet cheese pastries, love them, and this one does look insanely delicious! Wow! The close up makes it look like a cheese-filled donut. Fabulous!


  • Anissa! Thank you soooo much for sharing this AND EVERYTHIGN else! All I have learnt about my Lebanese heritage is from you!


  • it is, but lethal for the figure!


  • it was my voice but asking for one for my lovely old driver who has the patience of an angel. he loves it when i send one out for him. one day, hilda & family and you and oliver will have to meet me in beirut and i’ll take you there and to hanna for ice cream :)


  • you are welcome. so happy to have been a source of information on your lebanese heritage :) i enjoyed sydney,


  • it’s a deal !! olivier already knows we are heading to beirut one day (sooner than later i hope !) and he’s looking forward to meeting you too. after all i talk about you, and hilda & co. too ! would be so incredible. and the list of tempting foods to taste is growing by the day… :O)


  • would be such fun and love the idea of watching adorable baby k tucking into all the different sweets :)


  • Are you kidding? She may spontaneously combust from all the sugar in one bite of this, let alone ice cream and other things. That and we all get to have a sleepless night as she processes the sugar in her system. As long as you keep an eye on her and I can sleep, let’s do it! ;)


  • well, you know that baby k and i are the best of friends now, so, am very happy to keep an eye on her :) and i can promise you that she’s going to love all this sugar, the way i did when i was a child.


  • This looks delicious. I think I might have tried it during my Arabic-sweet-gorging session this past Ramadan. But I didn’t ever see the sesame seed galette with the cheese sweet (the cheese sweet being my favorite part). :) Something new to look out for and try!


  • I’m glad to have this recipe, but I doubt that I’ll ever make it. I fear any breakfast recipe which contains the words, “A few hours before…”

    That’s why there’s an Amal Bohsali, I guess.


  • you would have tried it during ramadan but i don’t think they do the ka’keh outside of lebanon. not even in syria if i am not mistaken but will double check.


  • exactly charles. am so looking forward to having one when i get to beirut in november :)


  • I love me a heavy breakfast, and cheesy k’nafeh is my favorite. To bad they don’t make these in Egypt.


  • yes, this is too bad. it is so delicious and very soon i will be having it again. yum…


  • A friend of ours from Zaleh once told us, that if given the choice between k’nafeh and hot, sexy times, that k’nafeh wins hands down. Other Lebanese men the room nodded in agreement. Perhaps the best birth control ever?


  • well, there is one thing for sure. once you’ve had k’nafeh there is no chance of sexy times until at least half a day afterwards. it’s delicious but not the lightest thing you can eat :)

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