Kunafa also Knafeh is a crunchy, buttery dessert made with shredded pastry layers enclosing a creamy soft milk pudding. Drizzled with fragrant simple syrup and adorned with crushed pistachios for a classy look. Kunafa is one of the most famous Middle Eastern deserts, a classic that is as old as time.
Kunafa, pronounced (Ku-Na-Fah), is a traditional Arabic dessert with many variations in neighboring countries. Lately in my visits to Egypt I have seen a lot of new knafeh ideas but until now my mom’s knafeh is the best.
Why this Recipe Works
I wasn’t really brought up to the stretchy kind of kunafa or the one made with cheese. My mom’s kunafa is always stuffed by ashta, thick pudding, or a nuts mixture.
Many in my inner circle love it with stretchy cheese, so to please both parties I’ve made my mom’s original recipe and added a layer of sweet cheese to it.
- First thing first, you will need kunafa dough. Pictured above is the package I get from the Middle Eastern store here. Yours might be from a different vendor but it will have the same word on it “KATAIFI”, with a subtitle saying shredded phyllo dough. More about that on the notes and tips below.
- For making the Ashta, pudding layer, we will use milk and cornstarch. Do not add sugar as we will pour simple syrup over when it is done so adding sugar will make it too sweet.
- Ghee is highly recommended in this recipe. Yes you can make it with butter but Kunafa is traditionally made with ghee for its superb flavor.
- You can find sweet cheese in middle eastern stores. If you cannot find it then skip.
- Divide the kunafa in halves and place the first half in your food processor while wrapping the other in the plastic bag of the package.
- Give it from 6-10 pulses stopping in between to release the kunafa threads from around the blade. We aim here to cut kunafa into small pieces but not turning it into powder so check it every couple of pulses. Transfer the cut knafeh into a bowl and proceed with the other half.
- Melt ghee on stove top or microwave, then add 3/4 of the ghee to the knafeh.
- With your hands rub the ghee into knafeh until you are sure almost every thread is covered with ghee.
- Brush the bottom of your baking pan with some of the remaininf melted ghee. Take half of the knafeh and spread it evenly.
- Press the knafeh using the bottom of another pan or a cup or a smaller plate. Press down and along the sides of the pan.
- Pour the Ashta (milk pudding) mixture. Spread evenly leaving about half inch all around. Recipe for the Ashta is in the recipe card at the end of the post.
- If you are using the sweet cheese, then grate it and spread it evenly on top of the pudding.
- Add the remaining shredded knafeh , spread it evenly and press lightly with your finger tips.
- Spread the remaining melted ghee on top and bake until nicely browned.
- Pour cooled syrup over, let it soak and rest for 10-15 minutes. Invert on to a serving platter.
So try this simple recipe and rejoice!