I’d like to offer all of you a big thank you for voting for me during Project Food Blog‘s first challenge. Thanks to your support, I am one of the 400 food bloggers to advance to the next round! For this next challenge, I’ve been tasked with “tackling a classic dish from another culture” that is outside my comfort zone.
I knew immediately which dish I wanted to tackle.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember that I recently had a fabulous Lebanese meal at ilili. Given the chance, the only thing I would have changed about the meal was the dessert. My eating buddy claims that the traditional preparation of the dessert, kanafe, is his favorite dessert in the world. Unfortunately for me, the kanafe at ilili was prepared in a more contemporary manner. A representative from the restaurant actually left a comment inviting us back to try a traditional preparation, but when I responded, I never heard anything back from her. Well, no time like know to take matters in my own hands, right?
So now, I attempt to make a classic preparation of kanafe, which to some people, is the best dessert in the world. No pressure, huh?
My first step was finding some unique ingredients, which necessitated a trip to the specialty store Kalustyans.
After browsing the aisles and aisles of spices and ingredients the uses of which I could only conjecture, I picked up my foods – rose water, shredded phyllo dough, and nabulsi cheese. I was good to go!
I also borrowed my friend’s cookbook (which was only used as a guide – I got the real deal recipe verbally through him) – as well as some coloring that is traditionally used.
Okay, THEN I was good to go.
Kanafe is basically a mix of shredded phyllo, layered with nabulsi cheese. Nabulsi is a bit difficult to find; even my friend who makes it regularly substitutes a mixture of ricotta and goat cheese with honey. I was lucky enough to find nabulsi at Kalustyans – so I was well on my way to making this dessert as authentic as possible!
Although the recipe in the book seemed a bit complicated, the process to make kanafe was pretty straight forward. First, I needed to break up the shredded phyllo – I had only worked with layered phyllo before, so working with phyllo that looked like dried noodles was a new experience!
After I thoroughly shredded the phyllo, I added butter and mixed the phyllo again to coat it completely:
I then lined a pie dish with half of the phyllo, added the nabulsi cheese, and covered with the remaining phyllo:
I popped it into the oven to bake for an hour, and that was that – easy enough, right? Meanwhile, I made the traditional rosewater syrup to pour on top of the kanafe with sugar, water, lemon juice and rosewater:
…and allowed the syrup to cool. Once the kanafe was browned and ready, I ran a knife around the edges of the plate to loosen it, and slid it on the plate:
And now the piece de resistance – the red kunafa coloring. I didn’t want to use too much, since I had borrowed it from my friend – so just a sprinkling, along with some crushed pistachios, made for a pretty garnish.
I then added the final touch – the rosewater syrup:
And I had done it! An honest-to-goodness, authentic kanafe (top picture). And it was scrumptious!!
I had never made Lebanese cuisine before, so it was totally unfamiliar to me. However, I loved using all of these new-to-me ingredients and browsing specialty food stores (one of my favorite past times!). As to whether this is indeed the BEST dessert in the world – I still reserve my vote. But is it up there? You bet.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like the recipe!