Before I get started, I want to say Ramadan Kareem to those who are celebrating this holy month! We all have our own definition of what Ramadan means to ourselves. It’s a time of sabr (patience), generosity, prayer, and fasting. The month of Ramadan is a time where I feel closest to my family. We gather around the kitchen table more often than any other time of the year. After Iftar, my family likes to finish with a cup of coffee or tea, and desserts. A really popular and delicious dessert that is mainly served during the month of Ramadan, is katayef. Katayef is considered to be a dumpling but I think of it more as a pancake that is cooked on one side only. It is either filled with walnuts, sweet cheese, or kashta (cream). It is then either fried or baked in the oven. The last step is to pour some simple sugar syrup on top and enjoy. Some like to sprinkle coconut or crushed pistachios on top for an added crunch.
I do have to say that my family and I really take advantage of katayef when it is available. As I write this, we are 6 days into Ramadan and I’ve consumed katayef 4 out of the 6 nights. A majority of the time, my family picks up ready made katayef from the numerous Middle Eastern bakeries in my hometown. I also find that many Middle Eastern bakery or grocery stores make the katayef dough available to purchase. We’ve made homemade katayef a few times and it’s just as delicious. If you’re interested in my family’s recipe for katayef, keep on reading!
But how did katayef come to be the delicious dessert it is today? Some say it dates back to the Abbasid Caliphate, 566-653 CE. A recipe for katayef was mentioned in a Middle Eastern cookbook dating back to the 10th century. The cookbook was written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq and it’s called Kitab al- Tabih (The Book of Dishes). It was originally a dessert prepared by street vendors and households in Egypt. The country of origin itself has not been fully confirmed, but it’s safe to say that katayef is enjoyed all around the world in many variations.
I’m very blessed to live in a city where I still feel in touch with my culture and it’s roots. I grew up in a suburb south of Chicago called Bridgeview. It has a big Arab American population and that comes with access to many Middle Eastern restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. I’d like to share with you the 2 main bakeries that my family relies on for their delicious sweets.
1. Al Basha Sweets: This place is less than a mile from my house and has always been my family’s go-to for Arabian sweets. I believe they were one of the first Middle Eastern bakeries to open up in Bridgeview, IL. Whether it was a casual Tuesday or some sort of special event, we have always picked up sweets from here. They serve some of the best knafeh, warbat, and katayef there is to offer. My family has always ordered a large tray of half walnuts and half kashta katayef. They usually disappear quickly.
2. Nablus Sweets: A majority of the reviews say that this place has the best tasting knafeh. They say the knafeh reminds them of the knafeh they used to eat back home in the Middle East. I do have to say that they serve a very generous sized piece everytime I go there. I find that their katayef goes quickly during the month of Ramadan, so I always call and put in an order ahead of time.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a recipe for katayef that my family has always made. Every recipe varies from family to family and there are many variations of katayef to choose from.
Ingredients for Katayef Dough ( Yield 30)
1. 1⁄2 cup of semolina flour
2. 2 cups of all purpose flour
3. 1 tsp of baking powder
4. 1⁄2 tsp of yeast
5. 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil
6. 2 Tbsp of sugar
7. 3.5 cups of warm water
● Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately and then add together until it forms a smooth light consistency with bubbles. Cover the bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.
● Use a ladle to pour the dough onto a non stick griddle or frying pan. The bubbles will begin to evaporate as they cook. Leave for 1-2 minutes and don’t flip it over.
● Place your katayef dough on a moist towel to insure they don’t dry out.
1. For the cheese filling: Mix a 15 oz container of ricotta cheese with 1⁄2 cup of sugar and 1⁄2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.
2. For the walnut filling: Lightly grind 3 cups of walnuts with 1⁄3 cup of sugar and 2 Tbsp of cinnamon.
3. Fill your katayef as desired ( about 2 tbsp). Press the edges together and then grease the outer part of katayef with clarified butter or ghee.
4. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes rotating sides halfway.
5. Once they’re done baking, it’s time to make the syrup.
6. Syrup: Add 3 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, 1 tsp lemon juice, and 2 tsp of
rose water. Bring the sugar and water to a boil and then add the lemon juice. Lower the heat and remove after 10 min and then add the rose water. Dip or drizzle the syrup onto your katayef and enjoy!