Eid Mubarak to all of my friends and followers celebrating this week! Today marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. And, it’s time to celebrate with lots of traditional desserts, like Qatayef!
I grew up in Saudi Arabia where I was lucky enough to experience all of the activities, sights, sounds, and tastes of Ramadan. The night life in the souks was incredible, full of music, open shops, lots of fun foods, and lots of staying up late. One Ramadan night my brother was invited to hang out in a tent under the stars in the desert and I will always remember his description of how magical that experience was.
When I was a kid, Ramadan fell during the hottest months of the year but, because it’s a lunar holiday, it moves back about 11 days a year. That means that it takes about 33 years for Ramadan to complete its cycle and that some years it’s easier to fast than others. For example, the winter months are easier in that the days are shorter, and the summer months are the hardest.
There are many traditions around Ramadan, including the daily Iftar, which is the meal eaten after sunset when breaking the fast for the day. Iftar is a meal often shared with family and friends and there is always lots of food. I loved being invited to my friends’ homes for Iftar and just hanging out. In the Middle East, it’s very common to be invited to business Iftar meals as well. You always wonder what the host will serve and you almost always hope it includes qatayef!
Qatayef are similar to a pancake stuffed with cheese or nuts or ashta (a type of cream). Qatayef are traditionally fried and served with simple syrup and a sprinkling of nuts on top. The qatayef I’m sharing here are not fried because I wanted to keep things light. If you want them fried, shallow fry them in a pan or bake them in the oven after brushing them with some oil. I stuffed these qatayef with a mixture of crushed walnuts, sugar, and orange blossom water.
The best part about making qatayef is the magic of the dough: it’s made with yeast, flour, sugar, baking powder, and water. These simple ingredients result in a pancake-like patty that is not flipped. This way, when you stuff the qatayef, the uncooked side and edges can be pinched onto each other and the qatayef stick together, forming a half-moon shaped dessert.
Here’s the recipe.
Qatayef With Walnuts And Simple Syrup
(Makes about fifteen 4.5 inch qatayef)
For the Qatayef:
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 cups AP flour
2 T sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Water to mix and thin the batter
For the Walnut Stuffing:
1 cup walnuts
1 T sugar
1 tsp orange blossom water
For the Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
- In a mini-chopper, place the walnuts, sugar, and orange blossom water and pulse until the walnuts are finely crushed but not pulverized (see photo).
- Make the simple syrup by heating in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil one minute and remove from the heat.
- Dissolve the yeast in a few tablespoons of warm water.
- Mix the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture to it.
- Add enough water and keep mixing until the batter reaches the consistency of thin, runny pancake batter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Pour the batter into the pan, using a little less than a 1/4 cup measure at a time.
- Cook until almost all of the bubbles are dry (see photo below).
- Remove from pan and place on a plate while you make the rest of the qatayef.
- Stuff with about 1 T of the walnut mixture, and pinch the sides together to form a half moon. The qatayef will stick together easily, which is why they’re only cooked on the one side.
- Shallow fry and serve with simple syrup…or serve without frying.
- The batter will form more bubbles than a pancake. When the bubbles have popped and the qatayef is almost all cooked, prepare to remove it from the pan and place it on a plate. When I say almost all of the bubble, I mean that you can leave the center bubbles a bit wet because they will cook off of the pan (see photos).
- There are many different ways to stuff qatayef, including with salty white cheeses like Nabulsi or Akawi, as well as ashta, a type of cream you can buy in Middle Eastern or large grocery stores with ethnic food sections. The white cheese ones need to be fried for the cheese to melt and the ashta ones are often served half opened with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios.
Have you ever had or made qatayef? What are your favorite flavors?
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