If you like traditional Turkish sweets, you probably heard of kadaif, also known as kadayif, kunefe, and kunafa in different parts of the world. It’s one of baklava’s prime contenders for the title “most popular Turkish sweet”. As you’ll see in this post, there are a lot of variations of this delicious treat but here, we’ll focus on the traditional kadaif recipe that’s very popular in the Balkans where it also originates from. Let’s start!
What Is Kadaif?
Kadaif is a tasty dessert that consists of a balanced combination of sugar and cheese. Traditionally is served as a dessert after a main course dish like a doner kebab. Similar to most Turkish desserts, kadaif is served with some Turkish coffee or tea and in most Turkish restaurants the tea/coffee with kadaif is complimentary. The dessert itself is quite light which means you can always go for a second plate!
History & Origins
There’s a widely accepted theory about the origins of the traditional kadaif recipe and according to it, this dessert originates from the traditional Middle Eastern sweet kanafeh that was created by doctors to satisfy the hanger of the caliph during Ramadan somewhere around the 10th century. This recipe became so popular that a lot of regional variations were created throughout the years, including kadayif (the Turkish version) and kataifi or kadaif (the Balkan version that we’ll share in this recipe).
The name of this dessert originates from the Arabic word qatayif meaning crepes and it’s quite evident that all variations of this recipe have the roots of their etymology in this word. This brings us to the next topic…
As we mentioned, there are many variations of this recipe. There are four variations of this dessert popular in different parts of the Arabic Peninsula, two variations that are popular in Turkey, one in Azerbaijan, and one in the Balkans. Here are the most common ones.
Khishnah ( خشنة)is a pastry made from long thin noodle threads. It’s popular in different parts of Saudi Arabia.
Na’ama (ناعمة)is the traditional version of the recipe (it uses only semolina dough) and is popular across the Arabic Peninsula.
Mhayara (محيرة)– the best way to describe this one is as a mix between khishnah and na’ama.
Kanafeh Nabulsieh is a version of kanafeh that’s very popular in Egypt and the Levant. It’s named after the Palestinian city of Nablus where it originated from. This version consists of white cheese and shredded wheat covered in sugar syrup.
Kunefe is a variation that’s popular in the Hatay region of Turkey that has a large Arab population. The dessert is filled with semi-soft cheese, such as Hatay cheese or Urfa cheese, and cooked in small copper plates, served with clotted cream known as kaymak. This dessert can also be served by cutting it to wiry shreds; a variation commonly referred to as tel kadayif.
A similar version of this recipe named Riştə Xətayi is quite popular in Azerbaijan, especially around Ramadan.
And last but not least, we have kadaif, a recipe that’s very popular in the Balkan countries like Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the kadaif recipe, the threads are used to make pastries that resemble the shape of bird’s nests and are often top with chopped nuts (just like baklava).
The World’s Largest Kunefe
The longest kunefe ever was prepared in 2017 in the city of Antakya (Turkey). This kunefe weighed close to 1,600 kg (3,527 lbs) and was 78 meters (255 feet) long!
Is Making Kadaif Difficult?
Dishes prepared with filo dough can be difficult (i.e. zelnik) can be quite difficult to prepare but making kadaif is quite easy. The hardest part about making kadayif is waiting for it to come out of the oven. But jokes aside, the kadaif recipe falls under the beginner category which means pretty much anyone can make it. Recipes that use phyllo can be a pain in the backside because phyllo sheets can break rather easily but since for this recipe, the sheets need to be shredded anyway, this is not a problem!
Where To Get Kadaif Dough?
If you have the option, the best place to buy shredded phyllo dough are Middle Eastern, Greek, or Turkish supermarkets. You can also find it in some big international supermarkets in the freezer section, but keep in mind that it’s a specialty item. If none of these are an option, you can always buy some from Amazon.
Tips For Preparing This Kadaif Recipe
Note that you’ll have to defrost the frozen phyllo dough overnight before using it.
If you can’t get pistachios or just want to try something else, you can also use walnuts, almonds, pecans, or even mix a little bit from all.
As for the topping, most people use either fruit syrup or honey but don’t be afraid to mix both of them together. Personally, I love this variation of the kadaif recipe.
If you choose to use syrup, however, make sure the syrup is cool before pouring it over the hot pastry. Or alternatively, wait for the pastry to cool off and add some hot syrup.
Just make sure to cut the kadaif before adding the syrup because things can get quite messy if you cut the kadaif after pouring the syrup.
If you plan to store your kadaif (don’t worry, it’s even tastier the next day), make sure it completely cools down before storing. When you keep it in the fridge do not cover it with anything (except maybe a cheesecloth) because it may become too soggy and soft.
For The Kadaif
- 500 Grams kataifi dough (17.6 oz.)
- 1 Cup unsalted butter
- 280 Grams pistachios or walnuts (10 oz.)
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon cardamom
For The Syrup
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 1 Lemon peal
- 1 Teaspoon rose flower water
- 1 Teaspoon honey (optional)
1. Defrost the phyllo dough like instructed on the package. It’s best to defrost it overnight.
2. For the first step, start preparing the syrup; add the water and sugar (and optionally honey), and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
3. Wait for the mix to start boiling and right after that, let it simmer for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam, add the shredded lemon peel and the rose water, and boil for a few more minutes.
4. Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C) and in the meantime, melt the butter over very low heat. Skim the white foamy surface (when the butter melts) and pour the rest into a cup. Leave the milky residue in the pan.
5. Chop the pistachios (or walnuts) or add them to a plastic bag and pound them until broken into tiny pieces.
6. Mix the cinnamon and cardamom with the pistachios.
7. Add some butter to a baking pan and keep it aside.
8. Place the phyllo dough in a large bowl and break it into pieces. Add roughly one half of the dough into the buttered pan.
9. Add roughly half of the melted butter over the shredded phyllo dough using a pastry brush. Make sure everything is buttered nicely and use your hands to compress the dough.
10. Evenly distribute the pistachios (or walnuts) mixture on top of the dough.
11. Add the remaining phyllo dough on top of the nuts and pour the remaining half of the butter over the dough (again, evenly).
12. Bake the kadaif in the oven for around 60 minutes. As a rule of thumb, the phyllo dough needs to be golden-brown when complete.
13. Take out the kadaif, let it cool down, and add the syrup.
14. Serve it with some tea or coffee and enjoy!
Serving Size:1 roll
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302Total Fat: 18.1gSaturated Fat: 6.7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10.2gCholesterol: 25.2mgSodium: 102.4mgCarbohydrates: 33.5gNet Carbohydrates: 33.5gFiber: 1.8gSugar: 21.9gProtein: 3.5g
A Few Things You May Need For This Recipe
Did you ever try this delicious treat? How did you like our kadaif recipe? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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