One of the most rewarding experiences I had during my two and a half years in Dubai was Ramadan. Fasting with my Muslim friends from sunrise till sunset, breaking the fast together, inviting each other out for Iftar and enjoying authentic Arabic buffet at Egyptian or Lebanese restaurants are memories very dear to me, especially since this is the fourth year away from them during the holy month. This post is dedicated to them.
Thinking back at all the amazing dishes I tried then (my favourite being the Egyptian Feteer), I'm surprised I never had Qatayef. These past few days I was craving something very sweet, I needed a special first post in the "Arabic" category and also wanted to try a new recipe - Qatayef was the answer to all three. While browsing google images I stumbled upon Dima Sharif's page. Although I didn't follow her recipe here, I did use her supreme sugar syrup for inspiration (I used unrefined caster sugar and the result was a beautiful golden syrup). I also found a great video on Najat's Kitchen youtube channel on how to make Qatayef and decided to go with her recipe. While she uses 1 Tb milk powder, I thought of adding 2 tsp creamy coconut milk instead and was satisfied with the result. I would have used coconut milk powder, but unfortunately the brands that I found contained casein.
This dessert is of Middle Eastern origin and is traditionally served during the month of Ramadan throughout the Islamic world. Although these little cakes resemble pancakes, they are made with yeast batter and cooked only on one side. This helps to stick the edges together and give them the typical crescent shape. Qatayef can be fully or half closed, filled with cheese or nuts, deep fried or baked, and dipped in sugar syrup. Cinnamon, rose and orange blossom are characteristic flavours of Arabic sweets, and Qatayef is no exception. I made this recipe yesterday, right after making Awwameh. Since I had the frying oil ready, I went with the deep-fried version.
Fact: Palestine holds the record for the world's largest Qatayef. And not just for that.
Note: Najat mentions in a comment that the cup she uses for measurements is a 240 ml one. I used my cup of 250 ml.
This recipe makes 12 x 9-10 cm (3.5-4") cakes.
Step 1: Yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
Mix the ingredients well in a small bowl or cup and set aside for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Dry ingredients
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (Najat uses cake flour which has a low protein content and works best for such delicate batters. However, I made Moroccan Baghrir before with all purpose flour and it worked out just fine)
1 Tb fine semolina
1/4 tsp baking powder (the yeast does a good job in this recipe, you can omit the baking powder)
pinch of salt
Mix well in a bowl.
Step 3: Batter (I used a manual whisk instead of a food processor)
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, plus 2 tsp creamy coconut milk and a drop of orange essence (or use 1/4 tsp orange blossom water; sadly I couldn't find it anywhere and I wasn't patient enough to wait and buy it online). Mix very well. Strain through a fine sieve, cover with cling film and let it rest for one hour. The batter will be risen and bubbly.
Step 4: Make Qatayef
Heat a non-stick pan on medium. Using the 1/4 cup measurement pour batter in the pan from about 15 cm high (that's tradition) to form 9-10 cm (3.5" - 4") round cakes. Within seconds their surface will be filled with bubbles that will pop up as it dries out. As soon as the top is dry, remove the cakes onto a kitchen towel and cover them with another to stay soft and warm.
Step 5: Filling
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts
2 Tb sugar (you can omit it, since they are eventually drenched in syrup)
2 Tb shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
Mix well. Hold one cake in your palm and put about one tablespoon of the filling in the middle. With your other hand, start from one end and pinch the edges together to form half moons. Make sure they are properly sealed.
Step 6: Frying
Heat enough oil in a pan to cover the cakes by 1.5 cm (1.5"). Deep-fry them for about a minute until crispy and golden brown. Careful, they burn fast. Remove on paper towel.
Step 7: Serving
Prepare the syrup in advance so it becomes warm by the time the cakes are ready.
In a pan over medium heat melt 2 cups unrefined caster sugar in 1 1/2 cups water. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes until slightly thick (check by putting a few drops on a plate). Remove from heat and add 1 tsp rose water, a drop of orange essence (or 1 tsp orange blossom water) and 2 tsp lemon juice.
Dip the Qatayef in syrup for a few seconds, drain excess syrup and serve topped with ground pistachios.
Note: the syrup is faster absorbed if hot cakes are dipped in cold syrup or vice versa.
Making Qatayef may be a little time-consuming but it is well worth the effort. This is one dessert you'll never forget.
A lot of time, effort and passion goes into each recipe I post. My greatest satisfaction comes from your feedback. If you made this recipe, then please take a minute of your time to leave me a comment. And if you like it, please share it so that others have access to it as well. Thank you all in advance!