Kunafa (Shredded Dough Pastry)

Kunafa

(Shredded dough pastry)

The original translation is a bit tricky on this recipe.  This is what I call a reverse redaction as the original I found is actually a modern day recipe with cream cheese and orange water as part of the ingredients.  Here is a brief history and descriptions of the original types of shredded dough pastries.

Translation:

The original commentary is –Batter is dribbled onto the warmed metal through perforations.  The fine ‘pasta’ that results is dried, rather then cooked, on the sheet,…to make a pastry, the kunafah dough must be baked with clarified butter and perhaps a filling such as nuts.  This was then ‘drowned’ in almond oil and syrup and considered to be as fine as grasshoppers wings.

(Rodinson, pp. 223).

There is no exact recipe for this though there is a modern day recipe that I have crossed with a pastry dessert called qata’if.

Quata’if – This is of various kinds.  Stuffed qata’if are baked into long shapes, stuffed with almonds and fine ground sugar, rolled round, and laid out: then sesame-oil, syrup, rose-water and fine ground pistachios are thrown on.

Judhab al-Qata’if – Take ata’if stuffed with almonds and sugar and fried; arrange oin a dish between two thin cakes, and set under a chicken.  Between every two layers put sugar, and almonds, peeled chopped fine, and scented asi n tuffing.  Pour on sesame-oil or if preferred fresh mil with more sugar.  When cooked and fragrant, remove.  Some, instead of almond and almond oil, use walnut and walnut oil (Rodinson, pp. 81, 87)

Quata’if is described as type of pancake.  However the Kunafa was not a pancake but did use shredded dough or dough cut into thin slices.  Rose-water, sugar, milk, eggs, honey (for the syrup) or date syrup is common to both recipes.   The modern day recipe however calls for the use of orange-water which was not used in period and has been omitted.  This recipe also calls for small curd cheese and a soft cheese.  With the Quata’if (Judhab) calling for milk and Persian shiraz (firm yogurt) as well as numerous soft cheeses available this would not be a hard stretch to turn milk into yogurt to be used.

With a reverse redaction the ingredients were changed to reflect a more historic types of ingredients.

Ingredients:

2.5 sticks melted butter

1 lb Kataif dough

½ cup sugar

8 oz hard Persian yogurt or cream cheese softened

1 cup feta or goat cheese

2 eggs

1 cup ground pistashios

½ cup honey

1 ½ cups honey OR date syrup

1 ½ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tsp rose-water

½ cup almond oil

My Redaction:

When first doing this recipe, I combined the cheeses with the eggs and the ½ cup of honey, until smooth.

kunafa cheese mix

This is a bit messy but fun!

I set this aside to work on the dough.  Take the Kataif dough, making sure this is at room temperature and in a large bowl, I poured the melted butter over it.  Then I worked the butter through the dough, trying for an even coating as much as possible.  When the dough has been as best coated with butter, I place half of the dough in a greased dish.

Kunafa bottom layer of dough in pottery

If you love buttery dough this stuff is awesome.  I swear I consumed at least 1/2  a cup it was soooo tasty!

For those wondering, while I “could” maybe have made this with either rolled out dough and a knife to slice small strands of the rolled dough or even possibly using a pastry machine, I decided the best course of action that would NOT drive me bonkers while trying to make this was just to buy the dough at the store.  This can be found (for me) in a local HEB store though I believe the local Indian or Phoenician Bakery also carries this pastry dough also.

Once the bottom layer of dough is down I pour on the egg, cheese and honey mixture.  I then layer the sugar and pistachios onto this

kunafa cheese over dough

“But where are the pistachio and sugar?” You might ask.  Well, those were forgotten at the time of taking pictures.  (I was in the midst of cooking 3 dishes and taking several pictures and forgot the sugar and pistachio parts…but never fear they were added!).

After the sugar and nuts are layered, I add the remaining dough on top.  This is then baked till the dough is a golden brown on top.

While the dish is cooking I placed into a bowl the remaining honey, water, rose-water and sesame oil and mix thoroughly.   This will look like a HUGE amount.  Do not fret, all of the syrup will be absorbed.  Really.  All of it will be come one with the creamy salty sweet goodness that is about to come out of your oven!

Once the main dish is finished cooking and cooled (15-20 minutes) I poured the hot syrup and oil mixture on top.  This is allowed to absorb into the dish until there is no excess left.  Once the syrup has been absorbed into the dish, it is ready to serve.

kunafa baked w syrup

This series of photos were taken with a honey mixture.  The date syrup mixture adds a dark hue to the over all pastry as well as a very different taste.  I will suggest making a full batch of dough and cheese then doing a half and half set of the pastry using two different pans for each type to cook in.  I have also made this recipe using a miniature cheese cake pan (really cook looking when finished baking.  Again sorry no picture.  Yes I was in a hurry that night too!)  I have also used miniature bunt cake pan to make miniature servings.  These didn’t turn out nearly so well as the miniature cheese cake pan but they were still fun to make and even to eat!

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