Kateyef, the Fancy Middle Eastern Stuffed Pancake
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
If you go to any Arab country during Ramadan, you will see bakeries churning out Katayef pancakes by the thousands each day, where people buy them by the kilo. Katayef is the dessert of choice after a late night Iftar or Eid feast. They are spongy little pancakes that are cooked on one side, then filled with either cinnamon spiced nuts or melted cheese. They are then drizzled with a rose and lemon-scented syrup. This dessert is the Arab answer to American pancakes, Italian cannoli or Eastern European blintzes. However, while many western people eat pancakes for breakfast, Arabs eat Katayef for dessert, as they are richer and sweeter than traditional pancakes.
Here are some tips to ensure perfect katayef every time:
- Do not put too much batter on the griddle, or the pancake will be too thick and you’ll have a hard time folding it when stuffing time comes
- Don’t use cooking spray on the frying pan (if it is non-stick) or the katayef will be really hard to close
- Katayef should be pale, pliable, and about half a cm in thickness. It should NOT be heavily browned or thick.
- Katayef needs to have a bubble on the griddle. If they don’t add a little more baking powder.
To see the easy technique for making perfect katayef every time, check out the video below:
Directions for Making Katayef:
1 Tbsp Sugar
2 Cups fine Semolina Flour
1 cup all-purpose flour.
1 tsp yeast
¼ tsp salt
3 cups lukewarm water
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp water (to stir with the baking powder)
½ Tbs orange blossom or rose flower water (optional)
2 tbsp melted butter
Walnut Filling: Cheese Filling: 8 ounces farmer’s cheese soaked overnight
1 tbsp sugar 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon ½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
Mix together the semolina, flour, 1 tbsp sugar, yeast and salt with a whisk. Add in the rose flower water and regular water. Make sure the water is warm, not hot, as you do not want to kill the active yeast. You should have a medium batter, a little thinner than pancake batter. Let rise for one hour or until doubled in volume. Stir with a spoon to deflate. Then mix baking soda and 2 tbsp of water into the batter. The batter should resemble crepe batter more than it does pancake batter at this point. Warm griddle (or good quality frying pan with a thick base, such as a cast-iron skillet, if you don’t have a griddle) to around 400 degrees. Pour about 2 tbsp of batter onto the griddle and quickly spread out evenly with base of the spoon. Once little bubbles form and began to pop and the top of the pancake dries out (doesn’t need to dry out 100%) remove and set aside to cool on a kitchen towel.
Cheese or Walnut Fillings
Dry the soaked cheese with paper towels, and put in a food processor to pulse until it looks like cottage cheese. You can also use ricotta cheese wish, which doesn’t require any breakdown in the food processor. Add the ½ tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp sugar and combine. Set aside. To the chopped walnuts, mix in 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon until combined.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put about 1 tsp if filling of choice onto the pancake. Fold over, and pinch the sides completely and firmly to make sure it is sealed. Do NOT over stuff, particularly if using cheese stuffing. Once you are done filling all the pancakes, brush them with the melted butter to prepare them for baking. (You can also deep fry them if you wish in hot oil but I prefer the baking method as it is less heavy.) Bake for about 10 minutes or until well browned. Broil the last 5 minutes if not browned from the top. Drizzle with Attar syrup or you can put the syrup on the side so everyone can put the amount they wish.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East, and soon to be cookbook author. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/