Sunday, January 14, 2007

konafa à la crème

image: al'ahram

konafa [künefe, knaffi] is a type of middle eastern pastry which is very well known and much loved. it also can be made in a variety of ways. it is typically seen made with very finely shredded kataifi phyllo, or as i know it — [tel] kadayıf, which is turkish and is a mass of very finely formed strings of dough cooked on a hot surface. depending on the shape they take and what goes into them, the kinds of kadayıf go by different names — but that's a subject for another time. [this pastry it is also common to armenians and those of balkan countries].

photo: feniks
imagine having THAT job! :)

the shredded baklawah type which is more commonly found in many cities (at least here) is greek in origin. in either case, this dough is used as a top and bottom layer, providing a nice crunchy buffer zone for either a rich creamy filling [kaymak, ashta] or one made from a cheese of some sort, either a chewy one or soft like ricotta. after being baked, it is drenched with a sugary syrup which the shredded dough absorbs. typically, it is served warm or room temperature. it is one of my all-time favourite desserts.

* * * * *

the way i am making the dessert here is without the kadayıf [shredded dough]. instead, it has a topping which adds texture, made from crushed tea biscuits. it is a much lighter version which uses rice flour and a mixture of milk and cream which is thickened to a special texture using gum arabic powder, available from middle eastern stores. it is a very rich dessert, served in small portions with the necessary sugary syrup doused over it when it is offered to guests, or better yet ... yourself.

the use of gum arabic gives this creamy konafa a very pleasant texture which is somewhat chewy. it is hard to describe unless it is tried (i don't mean bubble gum consistency here!). it really is something quite enjoyable though it may sound a bit odd to some people at first. my favourite part was always the edges where it cooked longer and took on an even chewier character.

this type of konafa can be served cold or at room temperature. make sure, though, that the syrup is at room temperature. if you have refrigerated the syrup, a few seconds in the microwave can quickly bring it back to a more syrupy consistency.

a very easy dessert to make once you have the ingredients, i hope you give it a try.

konafa à la crème


1 1/2 c homogenized milk
1 1/2 c half and half (coffee) cream (or use 3 c milk)
3/4 c rice flour
3/4 c sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp rose water

1/2 tsp ground gum arabic

crushed or ground pistachios for garnishing

8 - 10 tea biscuits
2 - 3 tbsp butter plus extra for greasing pan


1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c water
1 - 2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp orange flower water

pistachios, chopped for garnish

note: i use a square pan for this which measures 6 3/4 inches when turned upside down. from the top of the inside edges, it measures 7 1/2 inches. if using an 8 inch square pan, the dessert will not be as high. make sure the pan is well buttered.


crush 1 tsp of gum arabic in a pestle with a mortar. carefully remove it (scraping inside of pestle as it may stick) and measure it out making sure you end up with a 1/2 tsp ground. set it aside in a small dish. sift it with fine strainer if necessary. you don't want lumps or small pieces in it, only powder.

in a blender or food processor, blend the cookies until you have a crumbly mixture. there should be some texture. you don't want a powder or dust. set this aside in a small bowl. if you can't have gluten in your diet, use gluten free tea biscuits.

melt the 3 tbsp of butter. use some extra softened butter to grease your pan well. don't skimp here.

measure out the milk and cream and place in a sauce pan.

preheat the oven at this point also to 550 F.

while ingredients are still cold, add the rice flour and flavourings and stir well with a whisk to make sure all is dissolved and well distributed.

put the heat on medium heat and stir constantly for 5 minutes.

after a good 5 minutes of heat and stirring, it will start to thicken. at this point, add the gum arabic and continue to stir.

continue cooking and stirring well for another 5 minutes. do not leave the pot. it will thicken up nicely into a custard like mixture.

pour this into your prepared pan and with a moistened spatula, smooth the surface out.

carefully scatter the crumbs over the surface of the rice custard layer.

pour the melted butter carefully around the perimeter of the dessert.

place this carefully into the oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. place a cookie sheet underneath it in case it spills over (it shouldn't but better safe than sorry).

place the dessert on a heat proof surface to thoroughly cool. the butter will settle into the dessert as it cools. the crumbs on top should be a golden brown as seen above and below.

once the konafa has cooled, wrap it carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a full 24 hours in a very cold part of the fridge. it needs to set properly before cutting.

make your syrup the next day. add the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pot. bring to a boil and then over medium heat cook for 5 minutes, stirring now and again. add the orange flower water or rose water now and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring. the mixture should be bubbling. it won't look like it's too thick but upon cooling, it will thicken up to a thin syrup of pouring consistency. if you over did it, throw it out and start again.

next day, remove the plastic wrap and cut into small squares. it will be easiest to remove the ones along the perimeter (edges). carefully remove the pieces with a moistened knife (very hot water). re-rinse each time; it's easiest to fill a cup with hot water and keep it next to you.

place a square on a plate and spoon some of the syrup over it. serve with arabic coffee and a glass of cold water.

garnish with chopped pistachios.



Pammie said...

Hi Burekaboy,

I love Middle Eastern desserts, but they are VERY sweet. I once made my dad some baklava for Father's Day, wow that was labour intensive. I suspect he possibly doesn't even like it that much but I sure do. I have a photo I took of the kataifi phyllo in Luxor, Egypt, although at the time I didn't know the name of the stuff.

You can have a look here:

The TriniGourmet said...

i want gum arabic :( never seen it b4 ... will check the arab gourmet store again... maybe i didn't see it cos i wasn't looking for it :)

Radmila said...

You, my friend...are awesome!

burekaboy — said...

pammie - thanks for the link. why doesn't it surprise me that you have a picture of this? lol :)

baklawa making is laborious but just imagine there are probably still people rolling out their own filo sheets, too! ack!!

anyway, i'm with you -- love all these sweet things :))

sarina - i'm sure you can find it there ;p check it out and try it. you'd probably like this dessert.

radmila - LOL thanks! ;)

beenzzz said...

Oh, that looks so good...........drool. I bet it's like biting into a subtly sweet, perfectly portioned, little cloud. Ok, back to reality.

burekaboy — said...

beenzzz - i like the cloud analogy :)) it IS something like that now that you've said it!!

Mike Eberhart said...

I just love how you show so many of the "step" photographs. That sure makes it easy to follow along and ensure the end result is as you expect. Now you are making me think I need to start providing more pictures with my own recipes!

burekaboy — said...

hi mike - while it takes more effort and time on my part, i try to make a point of doing step by steps as it is easier to understand a recipe, especially where one is not familiar with technique or ingredients. glad to hear you like it. thanks for your comment. keep checking back, i will include gf stuff where i can [if it interests you, that is :)].

Lilandra said...

we've made tel kadiyif (sort of)...i say sort of because we made it without all that dairy
so it came out more baklava like
Chennette and I both have different dairy issues.

But it's yum!

burekaboy — said...

lilandra - did you use nuts instead? there are all kinds of variations. you know i never knew about the "sawine" stuff until i read about it via you guys! didn't know it was muslim either. derivation from sev (indian/pakistani), no doubt. are you and your sister lactose intolerant or just doesn't go well by you and chennette? i use a lot of dairy. thankfully, i don't have problems

Anonymous said...

hi burekaboy
thank you very much for this unique recipe. I love this kind of staff. I will make some of this for sure.
please tell me the secrets of sucssesful cooking.

burekaboy — said...

hi anonymous :) - you're very welcome. this konafa is a bit different because it doesn't have the usual kadaif pastry; it is also very easy to make and you can double the amounts if you are serving a lot of people. the amounts for the recipe i show here make enough for about 6 to 8 people, depending how big or small you cut the squares.

as for secrets of successful cooking, i think a lot of it is about practice. it is important to find foods & ingredients that you like, and experiment in the kitchen with ways to make them, either on your own or from recipes. watching cooking shows & reading cookbooks is helpful, too. the best way, though is lots of practice!

thanks for your comment and visit. hope to see you again in the future :)

Anonymous said...

This looks nice. I hope to try it sometime.

burekaboy — said...

hi chasing children & recipes - welcome and thanks for the comment.

this version of konafa is a very easy one, as you can see, and gives great results. a lot less work than the traditional konafa and, i guess, i little less calorie-wise. hope you enjoy, if you get around to trying it :)