|Place of origin||Ottoman Empire|
|Region or state||Countries of the former Ottoman Empire, Middle East and Caucasus|
|Main ingredients||Sugar, cheese, pistachio, rose water, kaymak|
|Cookbook: Kanafeh Media: Kanafeh|
Kanafeh (Arabic: كنافة kunāfah, Turkish: künefe, Azerbaijani: ریشته ختایی riştə xətayi, Greek: κανταΐφι kadaïfi/kataïfi, Hebrew: כנאפה knafeh), also spelled kunafeh or kunafah, is a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup, typical of the regions belonging to the former Ottoman Empire. It is a dessert specialty of the Levant, especially in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, northern Egypt, and Turkey. It is a first cousin of the Greek kadaifi and the Turkish tel kadayıf, künefe and ekmek kadayıfı.
Kanafeh pastry comes in three types:
- khishnah (Arabic خشنه) (rough): crust made from long thin noodle threads
- na'ama (Arabic ناعمة) (fine): semolina dough
- mhayara (Arabic محيرة) (mixed): a mixture of khishnah and na'ama
The pastry is heated in butter, margarine, palm oil, or traditionally semneh and then spread with soft white cheese, such as Nabulsi cheese, and topped with more pastry. In khishnah kanafeh the cheese is rolled in the pastry. A thick syrup of sugar, water, and a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water is poured on the pastry during the final minutes of cooking. Often the top layer of pastry is tinted with red food coloring (a modern shortcut, instead of baking it for long periods of time). Crushed pistachios are sprinkled on top as a garnish.
Kanafeh is popularly known to have originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus, hence the name Nabulsieh. It was first mentioned in the 10th century. Nablus is still renowned for its kanafeh, which consists of mild white cheese and shredded wheat surface, which is covered by sugar syrup. The largest plate of kanafeh was made in Nablus in an attempt to win a Palestinian citation in the Guinness World Records. It measured 75×2 meters and weighed 1,350 kilograms.
Kadayıf and künefe
The Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh is called künefe and the wirey shreds are called tel kadayıf. A semi-soft cheese such as Urfa peyniri (cheese of Urfa, or Hatay peyniri, cheese of Hatay), made of raw milk, is used in the filling. In making the künefe, the kadayıf is not rolled around the cheese; instead, cheese is put in between two layers of wiry kadayıf. It is cooked in small copper plates, and then served very hot in syrup with clotted cream (kaymak) and topped with pistachios or walnuts. In the Turkish cuisine, there is also yassı kadayıf and ekmek kadayıfı, none of which is made of wirey shreds.
This type of Azerbaijani variant is prepared in Tabriz, Iran. «Riştə Xətayi» is called to mesh shreds that are cooked typically in Ramadan in the world's biggest covered Bazaar of Tabriz. It is made of chopped walnuts, cinnamon, ginger, powder of rose, sugar, water, rose water, olive oil.
In this variant, called also καταΐφι or κανταΐφι in Greek (kataïfi or kadaïfi), the threads are used to make pastries of various forms (tubes or nests), often with a filling of chopped nuts as in baklava.
A kadaif pastry is made by putting down a layer of wire kadaif, then a layer of a filling of chopped nuts, then another layer of wire kadaif. The pastries are painted with melted butter, baked until golden brown, then drenched in sugar or honey syrup.
- Ekmek kadayıfı, Turkish bread custard
- Qatayef, a dumpling-like confection involving some of the same ingredients
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- Cuisine Institute for Middle East Understanding
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