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Kanafe כנאפה Knafe Kunafe Knaffe Kanafa كنافة - A sweet bonus for Rosh Hashanah (with video)

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Sick of pareve desserts for yom tov?  Ready for something a little less ho-hum? 

I love my classic Second Helpings cookbook honey cake to death and look forward to it almost all year (it has a cup of sugar, 1 1/4 cups of honey, and a cup of coffee – what’s NOT to love????).  But sometimes… you just want something creamy.  Usually, my grandmother’s Neapolitan Cake fits the bill very, very nicely, and I totally recommend it if you haven’t tried it already.

Usually, a few of our Rosh Hashanah meals are dairy, because especially when it’s bumped right up against Shabbos like it is this year, it’s just TOO MUCH MEAT.  The fact that we can have dairy desserts is a totally wonderful bonus.  While there are a couple of specialized ingredients in this dish (kadaif noodles – see below; rose water) but beyond that, this super-special Israeli dairy dessert is also super-easy to throw together.

Here’s a dessert that was new to me before we came to Israel which plays on this region’s love of filo (phyllo)-pastry desserts (and its disdain for cakey European desserts).  It uses kadaif noodles, which are finely-shredded angel-hair phyllo (Wikipedia says they’re actually made of threads drizzled onto very hot baking sheets…).

Here’s knaffeh in its native habitat in the shuk:

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Photo credit © Tracy Hunter via Flickr

Here’s a video

I put together (with some camerawork by my daughter and husband!) showing exactly how easy it is to throw this dessert together.

You can find the complete recipe at this site.  I made it almost exactly as written EXCEPT I don’t have rose water and I don’t think I would have liked it anyway, so instead I used a combination of a couple of Tbsp. of Amaretto in the sugar syrup, along with a few drops of almond extract.  Absolutely perfect and it echoes the “nutty” theme of this and many other Middle-Eastern desserts.

By the way, if you’ve ever bought Knaffeh in any of Israel’s markets (shuks), you may be wondering why mine isn’t ORANGE the way the professional one is.  Apparently, they sell a special knaffeh colouring to add the colour (I assume you add it to the noodles while buttering them?).  But leaving it out won’t change anything except the colour.  Another tip, if you like nuts, is to sprinkle crushed pistachios, almonds, walnuts, or any other nut you enjoy in the pan BEFORE you add the first layer of noodles.  That way, they get baked in and miraculously reappear when you flip the finished knaffeh onto the plate.  Of course, you could also just sprinkle nuts on at the very end.

Final fun fact – when I googled images looking for “knafeh,” Google helpfully pulled up this list of suggestions:

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Knaffeh, it seems, is universal – at least here in the Middle East.  This could be the ONE thing we all agree on.  So what better dessert could there be for a day which is known as the “birthday of the world”?

Happy birthday world!  And Shanah Tovah to you and yours!!!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

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