This is a recipe from one of my favorite Lebanese chefs, Chef Marlene Matar. I had tried it several years ago, and this time tried it again, albeit with some minor modifications. The semolina cooks in the milk, and provides a sturdy support for the cheese. This cheesecake is made without eggs.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Passive Time: 2 hours
500 g akkawi cheese, tcheque variety (found in Arab grocery stores), substitute fresh mozzarella (around 1 lb)
4 cups whole milk
1 cup fine semolina
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp rosewater
1/4 tsp mastic drops ground-up in a mortar with a tsp sugar
2 packages of dry toast (aka biscotti)about 200g (1/2 lb) (can substitute dry breadcrumbs), ground-up till fine
1/3 cup fine semolina
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (up to 1 1/2 cup) mixed with a bit of oil to make it clump
1/2 tsp mahlab (optional)
1. Grease a 9" springform pan or pie plate. Mix the ground toast or breadcrumbs or kaak with the semolina, mahlab (if using) and butter till the mixture clumps together; if needed, add a touch of oil or clarified butter (ghee). Press it onto the pan evenly. (I used the back of a glass to press on the crust).
2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
3. Heat the milk until scalding in a saucepan and add the semolina slowly, stirring constantly. When the milk mixture starts to thicken, add the grated cheese gradually lowering the heat, and let it melt gently. Stir the flavorings into the mixture and then transfer the cheese batter to the pan and pour over the crust.
4. Bake in a 350F oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the batter sets and browns lightly. Serve warm with syrup on the side, or a dollop of jam or cream or a drizzle of honey.
This recipe can easily be halved, for a smaller cheesecake.
To make a quick syrup, prepare it ahead. Pour 1 cup of water in a saucepan, add 2 cups of sugar and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice; boil for 7 minutes or until thickened a bit. Cool. Store in the fridge covered. Can add a teaspoon of rose or orange blossom water to the syrup at the end. (or other flavorings)
The cheese needs to be the melting kind; it should also be desalted. To de-salt the cheese, soak it in water, and change the water every 30 minutes until the cheese loses its saltiness. Dry it thoroughly and shred it before adding to the semolina mixture.
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