Knafeh is a creamy and delicious Lebanese Cheesecake. It is very similar or basically the same as Kunafa which is a creamy cheese pastry soaked in syrup. Some may say they are the same, but the addition of egg, different nuts, and flavors elevates this dessert to cheesecake status. It has crunchy crusts and nutty, cheesy filling coated in an orange syrup that is to die for.
The origin of this recipe and the Kunafa may be up for debate, but the origins of ricotta cheese go all the way back to the Bronze Age and Rome. Since Ricotta cheese has a short shelf life, however, historians believe that it was really only consumed by shepherds, or rural folk as could eat it fresh without transport. Ricotta means “re-cooked,” as the milk is cooked with acid to form curds that are then strained and pressed. Most store bought ricotta cheeses have a grainy texture to them, while fresh is much smoother.
This recipe is quite versatile meaning that you can substitute many elements in the recipe with varying and lovely outcomes. Trade the ricotta for basic cream cheese and it will be creamier! Switch the orange blossom water for vanilla or the almonds for pecans. Trade ground ginger for nutmeg, but don’t touch that cinnamon!
This dessert is delightful after a hearty beef dish like Mechado, Morcon, or Pochero and a nice green salad. Serve it with fluffy whipped cream, orange slices, and iced chai tea to truly impress your guests.