Arab pancakes

August 5, 2011  •  Category: ,


This is the quintessential Ramadan treat. According to Claudia Roden, it has remained unchanged since the days of the Caliph Mustakfi of Baghdad in the tenth century!

These pancakes are traditionally either stuffed with a sweet cheese, or walnuts or clotted cream.

These are stuffed with the ricotta cheese or areesheh that was made a couple of days ago. A store-bought ricotta is fine.

The batter is egg-free and only consists of flour, water and some yeast (and baking powder for extra leavening).

These pancakes are spongy and only fried on one side.

INGREDIENTS: Yield 8 to 12 pancakes

For the pancakes:

  • 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dry instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese ( can use mozzarella, desalted as well or a combo of both)
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water and (or) rose water

OIL for frying, about 3 cups


For the syrup:

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and add the lemon juice; boil the syrup for 8 minutes or until it gets a bit syrupy (test it on the back of a spoon and see if running your finger will leave a mark). Add the flavorings and simmer a few seconds more then turn off the heat and let the syrup cool. This can be done several weeks ahead and the syrup kept in a jar tightly closed in the fridge.

For the cheese:

Combine the cheese with the sugar and flavoring and set aside till needed, covered.

For the pancakes:

  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl; place the yeast and 1/4 cup of warm water, plus the sugar, in a small ramequin and stir to mix; let the yeast bubble up. At this point,  add it to the flour mixture along with the rest of the warm water. Stir continuously to prevent lumps and then strain the batter through a sieve onto a bowl. Cover the bowl and let the batter rise  for about one hour or up to two hours; it should be bubbly.
  2. When ready, stir the batter  to smooth it out (it will feel elastic). Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet and brush with a film of oil; when it is hot, drop 2 tablespoons of batter, tilting the pan a bit to obtain an even circle, about 4 inches in diameter or larger.
  3. Let the pancake bake on one side; it will fill up with bubbles and the surface will go from shiny to dull. At this point, remove the pancake and immediately fill with one tablespoon of the cheese mixture (or less, depending on the size of your pancakes), pinching it shut. Set it aside and do the others.
  4. Heat the oil till hot but not smoking; drop the pancakes in the oil and fry 30 seconds on each side till golden; remove, place on a paper towel to remove the excess oil and serve warm with syrup.

NOTE: The tricky part here is the thickness of these pancakes; they should be rather thick, but not so thick that they don’t cook enough and stay soggy in the middle. If that happens, add a bit more water to the batter and whisk to combine before frying the next one. I would start with a couple of tablespoons and gradually increase the water if that does not help.

Recipe for the batter was adapted from Nada Saleh Fragrance of the Earth


15 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Lyndsey says:

    I can just imagine how good it is to bite into one of those. They look amazing, great texture.

  2. Belinda @zomppa says:

    They look absolutely perfect to me!

  3. Rosa says:

    Those look incredibly addictive! I love the filling.



  4. Angel of the North says:

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh – GORgeous! That would really screw my diet, though!

  5. Italian Notes says:

    Have to give these a try. They look yummy.

  6. MyLittleExpatKitchen says:

    I always love these traditional recipes you post Joumana. The pancakes look amazing and I love that even though they’re filled with cheese, they are sweet. Thanks for a great recipe!!

  7. Rachana says:

    Those look so mouthwatering. A great recipe!

  8. Nazneen says:

    My favourite Ramadan dessert. I still haven’t made any as yet this Ramadan. I like the ones filled with cream or the nuts.

  9. deana says:

    That would make such a lovely dessert and certainly would make any fasting hunger pains go away quickly. Love the orange flower water in the syrup and filling.

  10. Alicia (Foodycat) says:

    Puffy pancakes, stuffed with scented ricotta and doused in syrup? Oh my lord that sounds so good! No way could I wait until sunset for this!

  11. sare says:

    Dear Joumana, I’ ve been following your site since I saw your comment on azcookbook. Your recipes are all perfect. I tried some of them , they were delicious. Ataîefs look great. In Türkiye we have the similar dessert called “taş kadayıf”,filled with wallnuts- sugar. I will keep the recipe for cold days. Thank you for sharing us. Hayırlı Ramazanlar

  12. Kellie McMaster says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog and can’t wait to try many of your recipes. I just finished reading Annia Ciezaldo’s book Day of Honey and have been craving some Moroccan food. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and great stories!

  13. Mona says:

    Here is a little hint that I feel really adds a wonderful Kick when I make this syrup- add a few drops of vanilla

  14. Lily Sainz says:

    Good to know. I was searching for a service to merge PDF files and found a great service. BTW, there is an online service through which you can merge any PDF files, the link is here

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