Heavenly Kanafe.... A Syrian Dessert made with Ricotta & Shredded Filo Dough

By • March 16, 2011 • 6 Comments

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Author Notes: Kanafe is the most heavenly Syrian Dessert....the combination of the ricotta cheese, buttery crispy phyllo dough and the fragrant rose and orange blossom water syrup makes me swoon. This is my grandmother's recipe and I videoed her making kanafe in 1986. Ten years later, my mother wanted to make Kanafe for my son's Bar Mitzvah and we did not have an accurate recipe...so we popped in the video and was able to capture Grandma Abadi's recipe and her technique! Now I have prepared the Kanafe and will bake it next week in honor of the birth of my grandson! - Joy BeteshJoy Betesh

Food52 Review: One bite of this 'light as air’ dessert and it seems like all your troubles are over! The filling of rice and ricotta is sweetened just enough to hold up against the phyllo pastry, leaving you to fine tune the sweetness to your personal taste with the divinely fragrant syrup, redolent of oranges and rose. The initial gentle crunch of the pastry gives way to a light yet rich, creamy filling of the ricotta. The ricotta takes precedence in the flavor and it is easy to forget that there is also cooked cream of rice incorporated into the filling. - PanfusinePanfusine

Serves 12-14

For the kanafe

  • 1 pound kanafe (shredded phyllo dough)
  • 2 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream of rice cereal
  • 3 sticks of sweet butter melted
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, peeled & chopped

For the Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Drain the ricotta in a strainer. Prepare the cream of rice according to the box directions using the 2 cups of milk, add the 4 Tbsp sugar and the rosewater. When the cream of rice mixture is cool add the ricotta and mix well.
  2. In a large bowl shred the kanafe with your hands, tearing apart the strands of dough so there are no clumps. Mix in the melted butter, continuing to shred the kanafe till it is well coated with the butter.
  3. Spread 1/2 the kanafe in a 9 x13 pyrex or large pan. Press down firmly and press the kanafe 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Add the ricotta mixture, spreading evenly over surface. Top with the other 1/2 of the kanafe. The kanafe may be frozen up to this point.
  4. For the syrup, bring the sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Add the rosewater and orange blossom water. This syrup may be made ahead and refrigerated.
  5. Bake in a 350 oven for one hour or till golden. Pour the cold or room temperature syrup over the hot kanafe. Garnish with the chopped pistachios. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Tags: special occasion

Comments (6) Questions (1)

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Okay, I know that the fragrant waters are key to this, but I really don't care for them. (I'm allergic to almost every flower and blossom on the planet, which may explain my aversion.) If you were making this without the rose and orange blossom water, what would you use instead? Perhaps a combination of lemon and orange zest and juice would work. What do you think? Thanks so much. This is a beautiful recipe, and the story is interesting, too. ;o)

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over 3 years ago Joy Betesh

Kanafe can be made without the fragrant waters... just omit the rose water and orange blossom water in the ricotta mixture and in the sugar syrup. Since you don't like that taste you won't miss it!

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over 3 years ago Burnt Offerings

This looks wonderful! I'm hoping to visit Damascus later this year. My friend is the Ambassador there and we've been promised cooking lessons with the embassy chef. I might have to ask them to make this!

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over 3 years ago bethmichelle

This is amazing! I have been wanting to make Kanafe ever since I moved to Israel and tried some in the market. Thanks for posting!

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over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Wow! How amazing you taped your grandma making this. What a great family treasure.

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over 3 years ago Joy Betesh

Yes, it is a family treasure! Now that she is no longer with us we have the video to look back at not only for the recipe, but I interviewed her about her life before she came to America and then adjusting to life here.