I decided it was high time I made these myself, instead of waiting to be in Beirut to enjoy them at a pastry shop or buying them at the middle-eastern grocer in a box, wondering how many months they had been sitting in that box. These pastries are called king’s crown or taaj al-malek. I made them extra small because I am wanting to only indulge a tiny bit.
The pastries are easy to make and can be made over several steps:
A. Prepare the crown of shredded wheat.
B. Prepare the clarified butter or use oil or both.
C. Prepare the syrup.
Time frame: If you divide it in steps, it will take 15 to 30 minutes for each step.
- 1 box of frozen kataifi dough (this is the shredded wheat and this can be found in middle-eastern stores and some upscale American supermarkets that carry exotic foods). Use half the quantity and make another recipe with the rest.
- 1 cup of clarified butter or a mixture of butter and canola or other vegetable oil or oil.
- 1 pound of pistachios already shelled (for this it is best to try a middle-eastern store, as they will carry the nuts shelled in a sealed bag)
- 1 cup of syrup made with 2 cups of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, orange blossom water and rose water.
A. PREPARE THE CROWN OF SHREDDED WHEAT:
- Take the kadaifi dough out of the wrapper and untangle it a bit. Place small mounds of it in mini-muffin cups or regular muffin cups. Repeat the operation in another pan until you have used the quantity you desire. Now place each pan on top of the other and place a heavy pan on top in order to keep the pans tightly sealed. Place the pans in a cupboard or turned off oven for one day or two, in order to dry out the shells as much as possible.
B. PREPARE THE CLARIFIED BUTTER:
- The day before (if you like to prepare things in advance) melt 4 sticks of butter slowly on the stove. When the butter is melted, collect the clear liquid in a measuring bowl and let the milky residue stay in the pot. Can be used right away or a few days or a month later. You can also use half the quantity of butter and mix half with some canola oil (or other oil, just not olive oil!)
C. PREPARE THE SYRUP:
- The syrup can be prepared up to two weeks or longer ahead. Simply place 2 cups of sugar and one cup of water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring it to a boil and then add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice ( about 1/2 tablespoon); when it has simmered for about 10 minutes and started to thicken slightly, add the orange blossom and rose water, about one teaspoon of each. At this point the syrup should be thick but not too thick.
- After drying out for a day or more the pastries are now ready to be baked; first, make sure the clarified butter or oil is liquid and warm and douse each pastry with it generously; place in a preheated 375F oven for about 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden-brown throughout. Remove from the oven and cool.
- Place the pastries on paper towels to blot out the excess oil or butter.
- Heat the syrup and bring to a simmer; add the pistachios and cook for a few minutes, making sure you don’t get the syrup to change color or it will cook too much. Remove from the heat and with a spoon, dole out some syrupy pistachios on each cookie. Cool the cookies and serve.
NOTE: you can replace the pistachios with some other nuts. The syrup should be thick enough that it will hold the nuts together but not so think that it will harden. Cooking time for the syrup should not exceed 12 minutes or so. If you cooked the syrup too long, and it is too hard, add some water and simmer a bit to make it lighter.
The best shape for these cookies is a strong base and a thinner wall all around; aim for this as it will help hold the pistachios once you plop them on the cookie, dripping in syrup.
NOTE: These are also called sparrow’s nest or esh al-bulbul
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