Knehef is one of the traditional Lebanese desserts that you usually buy and avoid making at home. It is an upside down sweet cheese cake with a crumbly textured top and a few generous drizzles of syrup. Living two planes away from the best Knefeh options, you have to find some shortcuts and creative ways to respond to your cravings. Nanette, my mother-in-law, was courteous enough to make a few recipe trials with me while I was in Lebanon during our Christmas break. She explained the basic logic behind a successful homemade knefeh and a few tricks too (memories of the kebbeh sessions started haunting me; breathe in… breathe out!).

Back home, I was faced with the reality of never being able to find the right cheese. I went on a mission to work around the few missing ingredients and created a recipe that uses commonly available ingredients: bread crumbs, butter, ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Add some orange blossom water and rose water: your taste buds start singing! Youhouuuu

This is a simplified homemade knefeh interpretation. I am afraid the detailed original complicated 10 step long version will scare you; you will never want to prepare it! The whole purpose of sharing recipes on my website and through the newsletters is to make them easy, with simple ingredient lists and clear steps. Yalla Knefeh!! :))



Recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 6 to 8

Syrup Ingredients
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon rose water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
(⅓ cup water for brushing the pot while making the syrup)

Syrup Directions

Prep all the ingredients. You will need a small pot, a pastry brush and a small container for storage.

Put the sugar and water in a small pot on medium high heat until the sugar has completely melted. Lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 25 minutes. Using a pastry brush and a little bit of water, clean the internal sides of the pot from time to time to avoid the crystallization of the sugar. Add the lemon juice and simmer again for 10 minutes. Add the orange blossom water and rose water, simmer for a few more minutes and remove from the heat. Set aside.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup bread crumbs
75 g unsalted butter, cold
2 teaspoons rose water
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
200 g fresh ricotta cheese
200 g shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons rose water
2 teaspoons orange blossom water

You will need one food processor fitted with the blade attachment, one non-stick round cake pan (8 inch / 20 cm), a medium bowl, and a shallow serving dish.

Heat the oven to 400F (200C).

Using one tablespoon of butter, coat the cake pan on the bottom and the sides. Even if the pan is non-stick… this is your insurance step! Set aside.

Put the bread crumbs, 75g of unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water, and 2 teaspoons of rose water in the food processor. Pulse multiple times until the breadcrumbs look like wet sand. Make sure that you can’t see any big pieces of butter. Empty this mixture in the prepared cake pan and press to make a crust. Use your hands or a spoon… Try to press well so the texture is firm and compact. Make it even and let it cover the whole bottom of your cake pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta and mozzarella with 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water and 2 teaspoons of rose water. Combine until it is homogenous. Spread the cheese mixture over the bread crumbs gently. Make sure to cover the entire surface. Press gently but DO press. It need to be compact.
Bake in the hot oven for approximately 30 minutes.

The cheese should look completely melted and starting to have golden spots.
Remove from the oven.
Carefully place the serving dish on top of the hot cake pan and flip it swiftly… ta da!
Drizzle 1/2 cup of prepared syrup.

Serve immediately and drizzle some additional syrup top of the hot melting knefeh.

Bon appetit!

*Baking ingredients and measurements are in grams for best results. Most kitchen scales display results in both the US and international metric systems.