A sweet & cheesy treat covered with crispy kadayif! Künefe is a treat found throughout Turkey & the Middle East.
One of my all time favorite Turkish desserts is künefe! It’s something that I enjoyed going out to eat but it is also something I learned to prepare when I attended culinary school in Turkey.
Like pizza, künefe is best enjoyed when it is hot and fresh. The cheesy is melted, the kadayif is crispy & buttery and the simple syrup, referred to as “sherbet,” is still bubbling. Mmmm!
If you’ve never tried it, I think you should find a place asap that sells it and give it a try. Künefe places in Turkey have perfected the art of the service. They specialize in a myriad of different types and make each künefe to order. At your table, they serve some seasonal fruit, kayamak (a sweet clotted cream) and shot glasses filled with milk. All of these items uniquely compliment and enhance the flavor of the künefe.
The beauty of künefe, is that you can make it at home pretty easily. You just need the kadayif, which I have found can be difficult to find in some countries even in the Middle East especially since there are different variations of künefe such as the one in Nablus that uses a finely ground kadayif instead of the shredded kind.
In southern Turkey, I love to visit the kadayif shops. They are small little shops filled with massive machines to make the kadayif. Once it’s made, when you walk in the shop you’ll find piles and piles of it. It looks like a golden wonderland!
Here’s the recipe:
- 4-5 cups of tel kadayif (shredded kadayif)
- 1/3 c melted butter plus 2 TBSP for greasing the pan
- 12 oz cheese (I used Hatay Peynir, a special Turkish cheese but you can substitute an unsalted mozerella; it needs to be a neutral cheese that melts well)
- 1/2 c white sugar
- 1 small lemon wedge (like the size that you put it iced tea)
- Künefe pan (Two are better than one, but I used one in my recipe) -Substitute: a 6-8 inch frying pan
- Pastry brush
- large bowl
- a small plate
Grease your künefe pan (or frying pan) with 1 TBSP of butter.
In a small saucepan, prepare the sherbet (simple syrup) by combining 1/2 c white sugar with 3/4-1 c of water and the lemon wedge. Gently stir and place over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You don’t want it to come to a rolling boil, just lightly simmer.
Place the kadayif in a bowl and drizzle over 1/3 cup of melted butter. Toss to evenly coat the kadayif.
Then layer half of the kadayif in the bottom of the künefe pan pressing it down to create an even layer.
Slice the cheese and then layer it evenly on top of the kadayif.
Cover the cheese with the remaining kadayif being sure that no cheese is exposed.
Using a small plate, press it down on top of the künefe to compress it.
Now, it’s ready to the stove. Note: a gas stove is preferrable because you can have better control over the heat. But if you’re using an electric stove, place the heat on low, be patient and diligently watch your künefe so it doesn’t burn. When it’s ready to flip it should smell like browned butter not burnt butter.
Over a low flame, cook the künefe until golden brown on the bottom. (Note: this takes about 5-6 minutes but you can check it by gently lifting up a corner. If it’s golden brown, then it’s time to flip it.)
When it’s ready to flip, take a large plate (big enough to cover your pan) and place it on top of the künefe. Gently, with oven mitts holding the pan and the plate, flip the künefe to reveal the browned side up.
Then, place the pan back on the stove and using the pastry brush, coat it with the last tablespoon of butter.
Then carefully place the künefe back in the pan by placing the plate over the pan and gently moving it into the pan with a spatula.
Then cook the künefe again until it is golden brown on this side.
Remove from the heat, and place on a heat proof surface.
Gently stir the sherbet (simple syrup) again and then ladle it onto the künefe making sure it is fully covered. Note: It might seem decadent to top it with a sugar syrup but really this is the only sugar being used in the entire recipe so it actually has less sugar than my average cake recipe.
Serve & Enjoy immediately because it is sooooo delicious.
And of course, Afiyet Olsun Arkadaş!
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All photos & text by EE Winkler