Künefe, or Kanafeh, is a dessert of Arab origin, typical of the whole Middle East, although the most delicious recipe you can find is the Turkish one. In practice, it is (goat) cheese enclosed between two layers of very finely cut phyllo dough, in the shape of thin noodles, which takes the name of Kataifi. The phyllo dough is compacted, seasoned with butter, baked in the oven, and then covered with water and sugar syrup. The Turkish recipe calls for a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and a nice dose of kaymak, a cream cheese, the same condiment used for baklava.
Although Künefe is a typical dessert of many countries, with even minimal variations, what never changes is the delicious contrast between the slightly savory flavor of the cheese and the sweetness of honey, all framed by the crunchiness of the phyllo dough. Try this Turkish delight if you want to surprise your guests with a particular and tasty dessert.
Ingredients for Turkish Künefe
For the dessert
- 500 grams of Kataifi paste
- 200 grams of butter
- 500 grams of ricotta or goat cheese or even half and half
For the garnish
- 300 grams of sugar
- 300 ml of water
- 4 cl of lemon juice
- 10 grams of finely grated lemon zest
- 5 grams of cinnamon, optional
- orange flower water, if you prefer, instead of cinnamon, but always optional
- 70 grams of chopped pistachios
How to prepare the perfect Künefe
Turn on the oven at 170-180 degrees.
Divide the Kataifi dough into several parts, separate the noodles, and place them on a large plate, careful not to crumble it too much. Season with melted butter so that all the pasta is well covered.
Take a 15 cm cake tin and generously butter the bottom. Take half of the Kataifi pastry and line the bottom of the mold. If it is too dry, grease with butter.
Work the ricotta with a spatula until it is creamy. Spread a layer on top of the Kataifi and then close with the rest of the dough. To help you seal perfectly, use more melted butter as glue.
Put in the hot oven and cook for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by dissolving sugar, water and lemon juice and lemon zest in a saucepan until it takes on a syrupy consistency.
The only variations are in the syrup. Otherwise, the procedure is very standard. You can adapt it to your tastes. If you want to flavor with other juices such as apple or pear or cinnamon or rose water, substitute lemon juice. Even with figs, it’s not bad.
Remove from the oven and immediately cover with the syrup, a nice spoonful of kaymak, but given the difficulty of finding it in Italy, replace with mascarpone or whipped cream and sprinkle with a handful of coarsely chopped pistachios.
Which wine to pair with Künefe?
We choose a sweet, sumptuous and opulent wine like the Albana di Romagna passito from the Branchini winery. If you want an even more enveloping and spicy wine, combine a Zibibbo. Port and Calvados are two excellent solutions if you’re going to combine something more structured.
The French Connection is the perfect drink if you want to combine a cocktail.