konafa [kis 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 — [ , 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 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].
imagine having THAT job! :)
the way i am making the dessert here is without the [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.