October 13, 2009  •  Category: ,


I have to admit why I don’t make this more often (my rate is once every 5 years) The answer is I CAN’T RESIST EATING IT ALL. So, again, when I pulled it out of the oven all crispy andbuttery-crunchy and doused some cold syrup on it, my fate was sealed.  A few hours later, I only have one piece left that is destined to Mary, my next-door neighbor.

What is the secret ingredient in knefe bel-jeben that makes me lose control like that? You don’t see me gulping 15 snickers bars in one sitting. It must be the super crispy shredded knefe pastry, that cheese redolent of orange blossom water, that pure unadulterated unsalted butter ( I use the butter imported from France  which I find at the middle-eastern grocer ) and that sweetness of the syrup that was dosed just right.

For directions, I used Mrs. Bsisu’s The Arab Table because I love her enthusiasm for knefe and the fact that she devoted 5 pages to the recipe! I deviated from her directions a bit by not baking it as a large pie and by slightly modifying the filling. I baked it as a jelly roll instead. I just did not want a large knefe pie in the vicinity knowing its spell on me.

INGREDIENTS: Quantity will yield two rolls or up to 12  servings. Can freeze one of the rolls and use one which will then yield up to 6 servings.

This dessert is made up of 3 main components:

  1. The pastry
  2. The filling
  3. The syrup

Each component can be prepared ahead of time. The assembly of the dessert can be prepared ahead as well, and even frozen and heated right before serving.

The pastry:

  • One 1- pound   package KATAIFI pastry, available in the frozen section of most ethnic grocery stores and some supermarket chains as well.
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter (12 ounces)

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The filling:

  • 2 pounds akkawi cheese or a mixture of akkawi and mozzarella or all of one or the other.
  • 1 Tablespoon of orange blossom water or rose water or a combination
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar (optional)

The syrup:

  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1 1/2  cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons of orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

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A. Start with the syrup, because you can store it (covered) in the fridge for several weeks and use it for other purposes (with a fruit salad, to coat cupcakes, to make sorbet, etc).

Making the syrup:

  1. Pour the water and the sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Heat, stirring, to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir the lemon juice and boil for about 10 minutes without stirring. If you own a candy thermometer, check to see if it has reached 225F. If not, the syrup needs to be a bit thickened so that if you pick some up in a teaspoon and pour it you will see a thin thread forming.  Don’t boil too much though or you won’t be able to pour it at all!
  3. Add the orange blossom at the last minute. Stir and let it cool.
  4. Store covered in the fridge.

B. Making the filling:

  1. Slice the cheese of your choosing ( I like akkawi the best) and set it in a bowl for at least 2 hours, changing the water every 20 minutes. OR, 2 days and changing the water twice a day.  The goal is to desalt the cheese and the length of time required is variable.
  2. Remove the cheese from the water, pat it dry, and shred it in coarse shreds.
  3. Place all the cheese in a bowl and sprinkle the blossom water (or rose water or both) on it. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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C. Prepare the pastry:

  1. Make the clarified butter by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until it is completely melted. Heat it for a few minutes more until the milk solids get cooked a bit and fall to the bottom of the pan. Be careful that the butter does not burn. Let it cool and then strain it through a sieve lined with a paper towel.
  2. Remove the pastry from the package.  Divide it in half, cutting it with kitchen scissors.
  3. Take the one half and place it in a bowl. Separate the strands gently while pouring some clarified butter over the pastry. Your goal is to cover each strand of pastry with butter.
  4. When all the pastry is glistening with the butter and separated into fine strands it is ready to be shaped into a rectangle on which you will place a smaller rectangle of cheese and enclose it.
  5. Lay the rectangle of pastry strands on a large piece of plastic wrap in the form of a long rectangle. Make sure the surface underneath the pastry does not show. It needs to be a thick rectangle, big enough to be folded over once the cheese filling has been placed in the middle.
  6. Place the cheese in a long row in the middle of the pastry.
  7. Fold the pastry tightly to form a long sausage-like shape. Make the other roll and proceed as above.
  8. Wrap each roll  in 2 layers of aluminum foil and freeze for at least 10 minutes till they  harden. You can leave one of them in the freezer for later consumption.
  9. When ready to eat, heat the oven to 350F and unwrap the pastry. Place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Bake for about 45 minutes, turning it over once during baking to make sure it is golden all over.
  10. Remove from the oven when it is golden and crispy. Douse it with the cold syrup and enjoy!

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I served it with a raspberry coulis and some pomegranate seeds to offset with a bit of tartness the richness and sweetness of the kunafa.  Traditionally it is garnished with chopped pistachios and additional syrup is served on the side.



45 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    OMG, that is such a delicious and delicate tasting dessert! I always make sure to take it when I go to my favorite lounge restaurant/coffee (serves Middle Eastern specialities)!



  2. Ann says:

    Wow – thanks for the detailed instructions. It does look indulgent. I wasn’t sure how to go about this, nor was I familiar with some of the ingredients, so I chose to do the mansaf instead.

  3. Arlette says:

    Marhaba Joumana,
    Yummy and delicious looking Kenafe… and a new idea to try…
    very appetizing with the red color of Pomegranate and the Rasberry Coulis.
    Good job on the challenge

  4. Summer says:

    i love the way you made it…pretty nice.

  5. spice says:

    Looks really yummy….I wish I could taste it….

  6. Mimi says:

    How intriguing. I am not familiar with alot of Middle Eastern Foods. This looks so delicious, I want to learn more about this cuisine. I love your detailed instructions.

  7. Mona says:

    is it knafeh or usmalieh? what is the difference between them.
    thanks Joumana for sharing your delicious recipe.

    • Joumana says:

      This knafe is Jordanian. In Lebanon, the osmalieh is made with the same dough, but it is fried in oil and stuffed with ashta-cream not cheese and should be eaten the same day it is made.

  8. Foodycat says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! This looks so delicious! I had a friend staying a couple of weeks ago who brought me some Egyptian kataifi-based pastries – I haven’t had it for so long I had forgotten how delicious they can be! Now to hunt down the pastry to make this dessert.

  9. sumaya says:

    Mashlah it looks so yumy and delicious …… bravo 🙂

  10. dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I have been searching for a proper Lebanese knafe bil jibin (the semolina based one) with no success so far. Do you happen to have such recipe that you can share?

    Thank you!

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Dana!
      I have two recipes: one is the authentic knafe with the fark dough and the filling with akkawi cheese and the kaak. The other recipe is a mock knafe, easier to assemble because it looks like an inverted cheesecake, made with a dough of breadcrumbs and butter, with the akkawi and coarse semolina and miske filling, covered with syrup.
      Tell me which one of those two are you interested in and I will give you the whole recipe. Take care. Joumana

  11. dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I’m mostly interested in the authentic recipe. The fark dough has been hard to track and surprisingly I didnt find this recipe in Annisa Helou’s or May Bsisu’s books.

    Much appreciated,

  12. Maria says:

    This dessert looks and sounds delicious … wonderful flavors and I love the addition of raspberry and pomegranate. Delicious!

  13. shayma says:

    i love knafeh. your recipe looks wonderful. i am not too sure about the knafeh sandwich, though. how do you feel about that? my in laws were posted to Beirut, so my mum in law has learnt how to make this, when i go to Pakistan for Christmas I hope to get this off of her. yours is lovely, i like the addition of the pomegranate in the photos.

  14. Janet R says:

    We had a pastry in the Holy Land that had this same shredded wheat but they were formed into what looked like small nests and in the center were broken pistachios. Do you know what I am referring to? I do have a photo of them. If you know how to make them, can you please share your recipe with me? Or if you know the name perhaps I can search for a recipe. Thank you!

    • Joumana says:

      I think you are referring to what is called ” taj el malek” (crown of the king). They are made from the same dough (called Kataif dough in the West) and filled with pistachios and syrup. I don’t know of any cookbook that gives a thorough explanation on how to make them, maybe because in Lebanon it is considered part of the professional secrets of families that have been doing it for generations. What I know is this: the pastry is taken apart so that the strings are horizontal, then small bundles are made and placed side-by-side in a pan similar to a mini-muffin pan, tightly held by some plastic or foil and refrigerated overnight. Then, the pastries are covered in clarified butter or samneh and baked; most likely, they are actually fried in oil. Then the pastries are filled with pistachios that have been soaked in a sugar syrup.
      I am planning to investigate this further next time I am in Beirut and I will keep you posted!

  15. Afaf says:


    just love your blog, you offered earlier to give dana the recipie of konafa fark ,can you send it to me,

  16. ezz says:

    what a great web site.. THANKS

    one question:

    Sometime Kenafah is actually colored Orange.. Nablusi Kenafa.. how do they make it orange? what exactly is used? Can I find that in North America?


    • Joumana says:

      @ezz: yes , the coloring is sold in middle-eastern stores; I have seen it in my neighborhood store in Dallas, Texas. I have changed the name to shredded phyllo to avoid some confusion. Thanks for liking my blog!

  17. Melanie says:

    Hello there! is it possible to have the authentic knafe with the fark dough? I would really appreciate it! thanks and well done!

  18. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    It looks gorgeous. I love the colours of the pom seeds and the creamy filling. I’m actually making it tomorrow……looking forward to it!

  19. domi says:

    Bonjour Joumana, quel pavé de pure gourmandise qui me fait de l’oeil et je pense que je ne saurais lui résister longtemps…

  20. diane says:


    I recently purchase a bottle of Kunafa pastry coloring in my local supermarket and the bottle doesn’t tell you how to use it. can you please help me ? I was planning to make some red cookies for Christmas . I need to know how much of the color powder to use with each cup of flour . Thank You !


    • Joumana says:

      @diane: I have seen these bottles but never used them. I believe you are supposed to mix a portion of the dough with the powder to give it an orange color for the top of the dessert. /try it with a tablespoon first for an 8 inch kunafa.

  21. Gabriello Joseph says:


    this is a nice dish, i’ve tasted it when i used to Stay in Dubai, now i’m back home in India. I want to know (since all videos are in arabic) about the doughs used, I know about the Shredded fillo(kataifi dough). What about the powedry one ? is it semolina and how do they use that to make the kunafa.

    • Joumana says:

      @Gabriello: It is semolina and it is called farkeh, I will have a recipe for it either in my cookbook or on the blog; but basically it is semolina and ghee that are toasted and mixed with a syrup flavored with orange and rose water.

  22. kanwal khan says:

    assalam o alaikum,

    will u please tell me can i use philadelphia cream cheese instead of akkawi cheese?please reply soon

  23. kanwal khan says:

    i have 500 grams kunafa dough packet so how much butter should i use ?

    • Joumana says:

      @Kanwal khan: 500 g. is about 1 pound (less 50 g), so you can use 12 ounces or 3 sticks of butter; simply put, use as much butter (or a combo of butter and oil) to make the kunafa pastry oily or buttery all over; after baking it will get super crispy and delicious.

      As far as the cheese goes, you need a cheese that will withstand the heat of the oven; mozzarella, or ricotta or a similar cheese would work. Philadelphia wont.

  24. kanwal khan says:

    thanks a lot joumana:)

  25. Ozaer N. says:

    This recipe almost looks (and most likely) tastes like the one I had in this Syrian shop in Dubai. I think I’ll try making this!

  26. Mariam says:

    Your recipe looks delicious! I was wondering how long can I store this for after preparing it? Will I need to refrigerate it?

  27. Joumana says:

    You can store it for several days but I would always reheat it in a slow oven prior to serving it. I would not douse it in syrup except if planning to consume it all.

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