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Recipes / Knafeh à la Crème

Knafeh à la Crème

By Mark Bittman

Published April 17, 2024

Knafeh à la crème is a beautiful pie of kadayif (essentially shredded phyllo, which goes under a variety of similar-sounding names) filled with a cream thickened with rice flour and scented with orange-flower water.

Photo: Sam Kaplan for The New York Times. Food stylist: Suzanne Lenzer.
Photo: Sam Kaplan for The New York Times. Food stylist: Suzanne Lenzer.
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Knafeh à la Crème

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Makes 12 servings 1x

Time 1 hour 45 minutes

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Ingredients

For the syrup

  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange-blossom water

For the cream filling

  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange-blossom water
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

For the pastry

  • 1 pound knafeh pastry (kadayif)
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. To make the syrup: Boil the sugar, 1 1/4 cups water and lemon juice for 10 to 15 minutes, then add the orange-blossom water. Let it cool, then chill in the refrigerator.
  2. For the filling, mix the rice flour with enough of the cold milk to make a smooth paste. Bring the rest of the milk to a boil. Add the rice-flour paste to the boiling milk, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Leave on very low heat and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens, being careful not to let it burn. Add the sugar and orange-blossom water and stir well. Refrigerate until cool before adding the heavy cream and mixing well.
  3. Put the knafeh pastry in a large bowl. Pull out and separate the strands as much as possible with your fingers so they do not stick together. Pour the melted butter over it and work it in very thoroughly with your fingers, pulling out and separating the strands and turning them over so they do not stick together and are entirely coated with butter.
  4. Spread half the pastry at the bottom of a 12-inch pie pan. Spread the cream filling over it evenly and cover with the rest of the pastry. Press down and flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Then raise the temperature to 425 for about 15 minutes until the pastry colors slightly.
  5. Just before serving, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pie to loosen the sides and turn out onto a large serving dish. Pour the cold syrup all over the hot knafeh, and sprinkle the top with chopped pistachios. (You could also pour half the syrup before serving and pass the rest around for everyone to help themselves to more.)

— Recipe from The New York Times