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Delicious Mini Knafeh

Knafeh is a wonderful shredded phyllo dessert, filled with cheese and drizzled with a fragrant sweet syrup. This dessert is common in much of the Middle East, including north Africa, Turkey and beyond. While the origins are hotly debated, what’s not is the deliciousness of these sweet and savory treats.

My mini knafeh (also spelled kanafa, kunafa, kanafeh, or knafe) are a perfect bite-size treat and a fun way to enjoy a food that is more traditionally made into a larger cake.

My family would traditionally eat this middle eastern dessert during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, when it is customary to eat dairy foods. Knafeh is that perfect combination of sweet from the flavored syrup, and savory from the gooey cheesy center. They are essentially dessert pies, but are unique in that their texture is both crunchy and soft because of the cheese. They are an absolute treat to your palate!

These sweet treats are not only delicious, but also visually stunning. They look like little vibrantly colored birds’ nests that you can decorate with crushed pistachio and dried rose petals. They present beautifully and are perfect for entertaining and impressing your company. Even better, your guests will never know how easy they are to make!

Knafeh is conventionally made with a sweet cheese called akkawi; however, this is often hard to come by, so my recipe uses a combination of ricotta and mozzarella for a result that’s just as good!

plate of mini Knafeh dessert

Delicious Mini Knafeh

Knafeh is a wonderful shredded phyllo dessert, filled with cheese and drizzled with a fragrant syrup.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Jewish, Middle Eastern
Servings 24 Mini knafeh

Equipment

  • Oven (electric or gas)
  • 2 12-cup muffin tins
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Medium saucepan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package (1 lb) frozen knafeh (such as Apollo), thawed
  • cups (3½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • tsp salt
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp orange blossom water or rose water
  • 1 cup water
  • dried rose petals, for garnish
  • chopped pistachios, for garnish
  • fennel pollen, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375℉. Grease two 12-cup muffin tins.
  • Cut the knafeh into 1 or 2-inch strips and put in a bowl. Add the melted butter and salt.
  • Using your hands, mix the knafeh and butter, tossing evenly to coat the dough and break up any clumps.
  • Put about 1 tablespoon of the dough mixture in the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Press the mixture down to form an even layer on the bottom. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and cardamom, stirring until evenly combined.
  • Divide the ricotta mixture evenly on top of the dough mixture in the muffin cups, about 1½ - 2 tablespoons per cup.
  • Divide the remaining knafeh dough evenly among the muffin cups, and press the tops down firmly to cover the ricotta mixture and form a flat top.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  • While the knafeh are baking, make the syrup by combining the sugar, lemon juice, orange blossom or rose water, and water in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until syrup thickens, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  • Once the knafeh are done baking, remove them from the oven and pour the syrup evenly over each knafeh while still hot.
  • Garnish with rose petals, pistachios, and fennel pollen. Serve warm.
Keyword cheese, knafeh, kunafa, middle eastern dessert, savory dessert