Friday, August 6, 2010

Turkish Kunefe (Künefe)

Künefe is considered to be one of the most delicious Turkish desserts, especially in the city of Antakya (Antioch) located on Mediterrenean Sea, in Southern Turkey. Although künefe shops are very common throughout Hatay, Kilis, Adana, Mersin and Gaziantep provinces, the city of Antakya in Hatay is known for the best künefe in Turkey. What distinguishes Antakya’s künefe from others is the daily made fresh, elastic cheese that is only made in Hatay region. The kadayıf (shredded phyllo dough) is also made from scratch at small künefe shops in almost every corner in Antakya which I find very entertaining to watch.

The künefe shops in Antakya serve the künefe topped with cream or ice cream. Every time I visit home, I go to Antakya which is about two hours from my hometown and have künefe with ice cream. One of my favorite places to eat künefe is in Harbiye (known as Daphne from Roman times) which is in the outskirts of the city in a valley surrounded by plenty of trees and streams of water. Many restaurants and cafes in Harbiye serve künefe, however I opt for eating künefe at Hidro restaurant that overlooks a man-made pond.

Very few people choose to make künefe at home in Antakya since this delightful dessert is abundant, however people who do choose to make künefe at home buy the daily made fresh kadayıf from the künefe shops. Even homemade künefe in Antakya is very tasty which probably is due to the fresh kadayıf.

As you may guess, künefe is not widely available in the States except the packaged, prepared kind found in Middle Eastern stores; therefore I wanted to make my own künefe. I spoke to both my mom and my mother-in-law on how each one makes her own künefe to get a general idea. As a result, I created my own with trial and error. This dessert was made 4-5 times in my kitchen until I acquired the right taste, texture and appearance. I did not publish it until it turned out perfect to me. Of course it is still not like the künefe in Antakya, but it turned out a very good homemade one.

This elegant looking and delicious dessert should be consumed hot, right after the kadayıf absorbs the syrup for the best taste. The cheese will be very stringy, so a knife will be needed when eating this luscious dessert. In Hatay, Adana, Mersin, Kilis, Gaziantep and in adjacent regions, this dessert is very often served for guests after the dinner or at women’s tea gatherings.

Note: If you would like your künefe to be thinner, use a larger pan or Pyrex dish for baking the künefe. Also, I like this dessert a little on the darker side so I let it bake a little longer. Once it turns golden brown it should be ready.

For Syrup:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water

For Künefe:

1 lb shredded phyllo dough
½ lb unsalted, shredded mozzeralla cheese or any other white, stringy, unsalted cheese
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
½ cup milk (optional)

For Decoration:

2-3 tbsp finely ground pistachios

In a medium pot, combine sugar and water and put on the stove. Let it boil and remove from heat. Let it cool.

Remove shredded dough from package.

Shred it in a food processor or chop it up with a sharp knife until the shredded phyllo dough pieces are very small.

Melt butter in a non-stick pan. Add the shredded phyllo and mix continuously.

Add the milk and continue mixing until the butter and milk are completely incorporated into the shredded pyhllo. Remove from heat.

In a round pan or a Pyrex dish, place half of the buttered phyllo dough and press with a spatula or your hands.

Distribute the shredded, unsalted cheese evenly on top of the buttered phyllo dough and press with a spatula or hands.

Add the rest of the buttered phyllo dough on top of the cheese and distribute and press evenly.

Heat the oven to 375º F. Place the künefe pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and pour the cold syrup on the hot künefe. Let the künefe absorb the syrup for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot immediately.

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elra said...

I made this often, so delicious. My whole family and friends are crazy about it.

Fuat Gencal said...

Çok güzel olmuş, leziz ve iştah açıcı,ellerinize sağlık.


Joy said...

Yum! I would like some right now with my coffee please! :)

George-Athens/Greece said...

Just D I V I N E, Nihal!!!!
But who's gonna stop my drooling?
May I beg for a piece!?!
U just made my morning real sweet...

George-Athens/Greece said...

Well, I'd like to share with the co-readers of this blog mine "gourmet künefe" experiences: Last August, I spent almost a whole week in Antakya eating in and trying various places of this historic town. For sure, don't miss there the Sveyka restaurant (; for me the best künefe in downtown is made there (well baked, ample creamy cheese inside,plus much walnut powder on top!!!)...Yes there you can imagine how a künefe must taste when homemade!!!
My 2nd experience about this sweet sin: This Easter, when I was in Instanbul, another well prepared künefe was offered to me in Canım Ciğerim ( the young usta preparing it told me that he was coming from Antakya...most people in this resto go there for the liver experience, but you: don't leave without asking the waiters about THEIR künefe version...a huge portion ideally baked just like the one in Nihal's fotos!
Well remember me, when in Antakya or Istanbul!This is not an ad...

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Elra: nothing less than delicious

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Thanks all for your comments.

George, thank you so much for sharing your experiences from Antakya and Istanbul with my readers. I do remember you talking about Sveyka restaurant in Antakya. I don't believe I've ever been there, but the next time I visit home, I have to go there and taste their kunefe. Also, it's interesting that a liver restaurant in Istanbul serves kunefe, but the fact that the usta is from Antakya explains why! I appreciate your comments and e-mails and sharing your experiences in Turkey.

Amrioth said...

My best friend makes this (although I call it hairy pie) and I was craving it, only to find out like you said that you can't find it anywhere!!! (also my friend, seems to be ignoring my texts? lol she's a mom, so I'm sure she has good reason) So thanks for this recipe, I'm going to try it out and see if it's as good as hers!!!!

TEK said...

I am so happy to find your blog, and a kunefe recipe. my dad is turkish, and my whole family on his side lives there, i dont get to see them much and cooking turkish reminds me of the love and flavor i always get when i visit them. Lokma too is a favorite and reminds me of riding my uncles back over to a wake in the street in our village to ask the frying man for some lokma. mm mmmm! thanks again

Alexandra said...

Hey. Thank you so much for your recipe. I am a newly wed, my husband is Turkish, we are living in Romania and he misses home so much. Now i can prepare him this delicious dessert. I hope he will be impressed.

Anonymous said...

This looks so delicious, thank you for your recipe!!!

eriu said...

omg I've been searching for a way to make this. it was one of my favorite foods when I visited Turkey. I can't wait to try it!

Brume said...

Thanks so much for this simple recipe, I miss so much Turkey

Brume said...

This is the best dessert I ever tasted... I am going to try your recipe an see if it will be as tasty as in Istanbul

Tara said...

This was wonderful! My husband especially loved it.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Thanks all. Enjoy it!

Marmaris Turkey said...

That is what we dont have in Marmaris. We really need a place where people cat eat real Künefe in Marmaris.

Missing it so much :-)

Britt said...

After a recent visit to Istanbul, I tried Künefe and fell in love. I'm desperate to at least try to recreate the magic, however I cannot find kataifi anywhere! If i cut phyllo pastry as finely as possible, would this work? or is it not worth trying because it would be so far from the original?

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Britt, so sorry for the late response. I haven't checked my blog in a long while. I am so happy that you've tried kunefe and loved it. I think you'd be more in love if you tried the kunefe from Hatay/Antakya a city that is known for the best kunefe in Turkey. Have you tried online to find kadayif? It can be found in Turkish, Greek and Arap stores. Shredding the phyllo dough finely will probably not give you the same taste and I am afraid it would take so much an effort. Try if you cannot find it anywhere. Good luck!