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 Betesh —Joy Betesh
Test Kitchen Notes
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. - Panfusine —Panfusine
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.