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Traditional Knaffe Dessert


A traditional and popular middle eastern dessert with vibrant citrus flavor, Knaffe is a pastry that combines shredded phyllo dough known as kataif or knaffe dough, a sweet cheese filling, and simple syrup.   Watch our brand-new show All Spice with Shoshana Farhi for more classical Sephardic cooking!


Prepare the Dough

1. Thaw the Knaffe dough and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, stretch out the dough, making sure to pull apart the strands. Break the dough into chunks about the size of a walnut. The dough should be airy and fluffy after you pull it apart.
3. Melt the butter and pour it over the dough. Mix the dough with your hands so the butter is evenly distributed. Using an egg brush, coat your pie tin or spring-form pan with remaining butter.
4. Use your hand or a cup to scoop half of the dough into your pan, flattening it to create a firm layer.

Prepare the Filling

1. For the layer of cheese filling, in a separate bowl combine grated or nicely crumbled mozzarella curd and ricotta. Add powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. Mix well.

Assemble and Bake

1. Spoon the cheese mixture to top of knaffe dough base. Spread evenly and close to the edge of the pan, without touching the edge. Top with remaining shredded knaffe dough, spreading and flattening to the edge of the pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden, for about one hour to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on your oven.

Prepare the Syrup

1. While the knaffe is baking, make the syrup: add 3/4 cup water in a saucepan. Add one and 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of saffron for color. Stir over medium heat until the mixture boils and the sugar dissolves.
2. Once boiling, turn down the heat and add juice of one lemon. Add a couple drops of rosewater to taste (use sparingly unless you really love this flavor).
3. Cool and place in the refrigerator. (The syrup may be prepared in advance.)
4. Remove syrup from refrigerator and use a ladle to pour cooled syrup generously over the top of the knaffe. If desired, roughly chop pistachio nuts in a food processor, and sprinkle on top to taste.
5. Slice and enjoy!



-Knaffe freezes beautifully! Best if frozen before the syrup is poured on. If doing it that way, pour hot syrup over the defrosted knaffe.


-For leftovers (on the off-chance there is anything left!), rewarm slightly before serving.