tabla roll: knafeh cheesecake. your worlds are colliding right now, am i right? two of the greatest desserts: knafeh and New York cheesecake come together to make this beaut. it’s east meets west (and all other orientalized fantasies (what am i becoming?))–a layer of knafeh replaces the graham cracker crust for this New York cheesecake, is topped with more knafeh, tons of pistachios and candied rosewater and orange blossom simple syrup, attar in arabic. it’s the most perfect fusion of flavors.
this recipe uses chantal’s ny cheesecake recipe, which is the best of the best; clicking the link will take you to the original recipe, sans knafeh element. below is my take on the recipe, including tips and modifications.
1/3 lb (1/3 of the package) katayfi shredded phyllo dough, cut up
1 stick of butter
orange food coloring (knafeh food coloring if you can find)
4 (8oz) packages of philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 cups of granulated white sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of granulated white sugar
1 cup of water
1 1/2 tsp rose water
1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
1/2 tsp juice of lemon
reheat oven to 350 f and grease a 9 inch springform pan. in a separate bowl, mix katayif (shredded phyllo dough) with butter and food coloring until fully orange. make sure to cut katayif into small pieces (i hand shred usually, but feel free to use scissors or a knife). add 1/2 tsp of each orange blossom water and rose water and mix thoroughly. spread out about 1/4 of this mixture on a baking sheet (to ensure even toasting) and press the rest of the mixture (3/4th) into the greased springform pan. bake until crispy (10 and 15 minutes respectively). remove both pans from the oven and allow to cool down. *(i did not pre-bake the knafeh “crust” layer and it tasted fine, but if you’re more sensitive to the subtle doughy flavor, I would suggest doing so).
make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature before beginning this step. in a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. do not over-stir or you’ll end up with lumpy cheesecake. add milk and eggs into the mixture slowly. add sour cream, vanilla extract and flour and mix on low until the cheesecake filling is smooth. pour cheesecake filling into springform pan, on top of toasted knafeh base. put the springform pan in a 1 inch hot water bath and bake in preheated oven for one hour. turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar to allow the cheesecake to cool for 1-2 hours (this cuts down the original recipe’s suggested 5-6 hour cooling time). make sure not to move the cheesecake or bang the oven door, because this may cause cracking or flopping (at this point, the cheesecake looks like it has a jello-like texture, which is normal and why it needs to set). after the cheesecake has cooled down, gently take a knife and loosen the sides (not necessary because cheesecake shrinks, but helpful).
to make the simple syrup, or attar, add 2 cups of sugar to one cup of water and bring to a boil. add 1/2 tsp of lemon and 1 tsp each of orange blossom water and rosewater and continue to boil until attar is thickened (i allowed mine to thicken to a candy-like texture so it coats the top of the cheesecake and only slightly drip off to the sides). add about 4 tbsp of the attar to the top of the cheesecake and reserve the rest for your guest with a sweet tooth. add about 3-4 tbsp to reserved knafeh layer for topping and mix thoroughly. i added this to the center in a flattened circular shape, but this is up to your discretion. garnish with ground pistachio and refrigerate till ready to serve.
i’m incredibly in awe at how many people have shared/enjoyed this recipe–so far it’s received 15K+ Facebook shares and quite a few fabulous people have tried out the recipe (looks great)! if you do try it out, please send me a picture and share your experience with me! I’d love to see how everything turned out and hope all goes well! if not through social media or as a comment, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org