Friday, July 11, 2008

Cheese Kanafeh (Kataifi)

This is an extremely easy recipe and yet it captures a taste that is quintessentially Mediterranean.

The dish itself has no sugar, but syrup is added at the end. So, it’s possible to control the degree of sweetness as a function of taste.

Kanafeh can be reheated, although there are rarely any leftovers.

Special Ingredients

Kanafeh, sometimes also called Katayif or Kadaif or Kataifi (etc) is also known as “Shredded Fillo” or “Shredded Wheat” Pastry. The very thin, vermicelli-like threads are usually woven into skeins. When kept sealed they are soft and can be shredded readily by hand.

Kanafeh is sold in Middle Eastern or Greek stores (e.g. Sahadi Fine Foods in Brooklyn_ or can be ordered on line (e.g, or or These boxes can be stored in the freezer.

Cheese: Optimally one needs Nabulsi Cheese (from Nablus, a city in the West Bank). The dessert is often called Nabulsieh or “from Nablus” as both the cheese and the dough were perfected there. Nabulsi cheese is a white sheep or goat milk cheese, with a very mild yet slightly tangy taste and it melts beautifully and becomes elastic. The closest commonly available cheese in the US is Halloumi cheese, but that is too salty and the texture is not quite right. So, absent the Nabusi cheese, one can use Ricota, which does not duplicate the texture but approximates the taste.


• ½ lb Kanafeh

• 15 oz whole milk Ricota Cheese

• 1.5 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Shred Kanafeh by hand to pull apart all the threads. The idea is to take a tight skein and turn it in to a light fluffy pile. Quick, fun and therapeutic.

Line a pie pan, with ½ the shredded dough. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the butter. Add Ricotta Cheese and smooth into a layer. Add second half of the dough on top and add remainder of the butter.

Bake at 350 for ~40 min. The dough will turn golden brown. Add syrup and serve hot.

Sugar Syrup:

• 2 cups of sugar
• 1 cup of water

Boil in saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Then decrease temperature and continue cooking for ~ 4-5 minutes until it thickens. Let it cool. Can add a few drops of rose water.


chefbea said...

thanks for the recipe. it does sound a bit better than baklava. See you at Rex's blog which is great!! not only the xword stuff but of course the food

foodie said...

Chef Bea

I'd be curious to see what you think of it. If you've grown up eating something, it has all kinds of associations and it's hard to be objective.

I always appreciate your comments at Rex's blog, and the opportunity to sneak in some food talk...

mac said...

This sounds like cheese Danish with a crispier crust! I'm going to try this soon, will ask our Greek painter where I can get the Kanafeh.

misstrish said...

Interesting recipe. Sounds good. What happened to the nuts? (pistachios or otherwise)Also, would marscapone cheese work better than the ricotta?
See you at Rex's - best blog I've ever found.

foodie said...


Yes I agree, this version is s a bit like Danish.


I have never tried mascarpone cheese. Interesting thought! It may not have a strong enough texture, but it's definitely worth a try. Since I have in mind the memory of the original, I will let you all know whether or not it's closer.

In the Middle East there are many versions of both Baklava and Kanafeh that do not have nuts, but are instead filled either with cheese or with fresh cream, may be with a slight sprinkling of pistachios on top. But these obviously don't travel well, so they don't seem to have made it overseas. Even in the Middle East, because of the heat, the dairy based variants spoil more easily and are typically made at home for special occasions...

One of my fondest childhood memories was watching the women in my family preparing the various types of pastry. A large group of them would work together for hours preparing them, then they would send them in a HUGE tray to the local bakery to bake in their very big oven. My cousins and I would wait eagerly for the bakery boy to return with the goodies, with our noses pressed to the window. He would carry the tray precariously above his head and we would be terrified that he would spill our treasure. The anticipation of tasting the pastries was multiplied by the huge relief that they did not all wind up on the asphalt somewhere! It made it all very dramatic and exciting!