Tag Archive | sugar syrup

Ramadan Desserts: ‘Atayif

Ramadan is almost over and we’re ending it this year with a sweet treat called ‘atayif (really spelled qatayif), which are special little pancakes filled with a variety of stuffings, then deep-fried and sweetened with sugar syrup. In Jordan, this dessert is only made during Ramadan. There, you can buy the pancakes ready-made, and all you have to do is stuff them and fry them yourself. I have not been able to find the pre-made cakes around where I live in Turkey, so I made them from scratch. They’re surprisingly easy to make, and very delicious. Although I received a lot of diverse recipes and recommendations from friends and family when I asked around about how to make the pancake batter, the particular recipe I’m sharing here is one that I’ve found to be generally standard in Palestinian households. It incorporates semolina and mahlab spice* into the batter, two things I really love (major credit goes to Khalto M. for recipe help)!

*Mahlab spice, made from the ground seed kernels of a particular variety of cherry, is used in lots of Middle Eastern cuisines to give baked goods and desserts a special flavor. For me, the signature smell of mahlab always conjures up memories of baking date cookies for Eid. If you can’t find it in the Middle Eastern section of your grocery store, you can omit it from the recipe below.


In a bowl, combine 1 cup each of flour, semolina, water, and warm milk, as well as one teaspoon of yeast, and one teaspoon of mahlab spice. Mix well.

Cover and let rise for a couple of hours. When ready to make the pancakes, uncover and give the batter a stir. You can add a bit of water if it’s too thick. It should have a slightly runny consistency.

Heat an ungreased, non-stick griddle or frying pan on medium-low heat. Ladle out some batter onto the griddle and spread it around in a circle to your desired size (mine were about 2.5  inches in diameter).

Let it cook on one side; bubbles will start to appear all over the side facing up. Once the entire surface is covered with bubbles and cooks through, remove the pancake from the griddle. Do not flip over and cook on the “bubbly” side!

Cover the cooked pancakes with plastic wrap as you continue to make the rest, so that they don’t dry out and become difficult to work with later on.

To stuff, place a little bit of filling in the middle and fold the pancake over, pinching the edges with your fingers to close tightly. The cakes should be moist and the edges will glue together easily. The traditional fillings are:

1) crushed walnuts mixed with cinnamon and a bit of sugar syrup, to sweeten

2) sweet dessert cheese – we used unsalted mozzarella because that is what was available here, but you can use ‘akkawi cheese if you have it, or even ricotta (mixed with a little bit of cornstarch to keep it held together)

My husband likes combining cheese and walnuts in one – not very traditional but tasty :) !

Once folded up, fry them in oil on medium-low heat until golden brown on each side.

Take them out, and quickly drizzle with sugar syrup to taste. Serve hot!

Some people prefer to bake them instead of frying them for a healthier alternative. I always fry :D

Sugar Syrup: in a saucepan, combine one part sugar with half part water. Stir then heat up until it starts to boil, then add a squeeze of lemon juice. Let boil for about a minute, then remove from heat and let cool. It will thicken to a proper syrup once it cools completely.

Variation: to make another type of ‘atayif that does not require deep-frying, make the pancakes following the recipe above, but make them smaller in size (about half the size). Once cooked, fold each pancake in half, and start pinching the edges together 3/4 of the way up, leaving an opening at the end. Spoon a bit of fresh cream (gaimar or clotted cream or kaymak) into the opening to fill the cake, then dip the open part into crushed pistachios and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with cooled sugar syrup when ready to serve. These are called ‘atayif ‘asafeeri.


A Long Break With A Sweet Ending

It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog! I feel bad, but I had a lot going on in the past several weeks (months?) and was just not able to get around to updating. Also, some completely unpredicted events changed my plans that I had so carefully laid out for the next year or so, and I am now back in the US. SubhanAllah. But I do have a lot of recipes saved up and want to continue adding to this blog insha’Allah, and I think I am finally in a position to do that again :)

So to end my long break sweetly, I am going to share a recipe for a lovely dessert that is SO unbelievably easy to make and SO satisfying. To my Arab readers: you can make this with ingredients readily available in your kitchen. For those of you who do not have semolina, kaymak/clotted cream/gaimar, pistachios, and sugar syrup on hand: the ingredients are very easily acquired!

Two important notes: I tried making this a few days ago here in MN, and I was terribly wrong to make a few substitutions that made this dessert turn out just terribly. I was in a rush and thought that a few tweaks here and there would benefit me greatly in terms of money and time. Wrong. Do not substitute Cream of Wheat for the semolina. Do not buy a random UAE brand of gaimar from your local Middle Eastern grocer that is on sale. Stick to the well-known and trusted kinds. Do not use corn syrup instead of making a proper sugar syrup on the stove – I knew I shouldn’t have done this, but I was so short on time and decided to give it a try and hope for the best; yeah, no.

So here is my tried and true recipe for Layali Libnan! Literally “Nights of Lebanon,” “Lebanese Nights,” or however you want to put it, it consists of a creamy semolina-pudding base, covered with a smooth layer of thick, whole cream, topped with crushed pistachios. Since none of the ingredients used are sweet themselves, you sweeten this dessert by drizzling sugar syrup on top of each portion when you’re ready to serve it.

(The ingredients listed are very approximate – sorry).


1 liter of fresh milk

1.5-2 cups of coarse semolina

2 small cans of gaimar (use a good brand like Puk or Al-Marai)  OR a container of clotted cream OR a small tub of kaymak – basically, any sort of spreadable full-fat cream (you can even boil whole liquid cream, let it cool, then scrape off the layer of fat that will form on the top and use that!)

a couple tablespoons of crushed pistachios for garnish

thinly-sliced strawberries (optional)

For the sugar syrup: 1 cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, half a lemon, rose water or orange blossom water (optional)


Start by heating the milk in a pot on low heat. Stir to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn.

When it almost reaches a boil, pour in the semolina, stirring constantly, letting it boil for a minute. You want the mixture to really thicken – thick enough that it’s hard to stir. If  it isn’t thick enough, just keep adding more semolina until it thickens. This is always how I make it, hence my lack of an exact recipe :( – sorry !!


When it thickens up, take it off the stove. In a large glass baking dish or a deep serving tray, put a few drops of water to just barely coat the bottom. This is so that the pudding base doesn’t stick when you come to serve it. Next, pour the milk+semolina mixture into the dish. Let it cool a bit, then cover it and chill for a few hours.

Ready to chill!

While it’s chilling, make the sugar syrup:

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until it reaches a boil. When it starts boiling, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the syrup and keep stirring until it thickens. If you want, you can add a couple drops of rose water or orange blossom water to flavor it at this point. When it has thickened, take it off the fire and let it cool. It will finish thickening up as it cools! You need the sugar syrup to have cooled completely before you can use it on your dessert.

When the milk+semolina layer is finished chilling, open the cans of gaimar/kaymak/clotted cream and spread a nice, thick layer all over the top of the semolina base. You can make it as thick as you like; it’s all up to your own personal taste.

Smooth layer of cream - the best part!

Finally, sprinkle the crushed pistachios all over the top to make it look pretty. You can even add thinly-sliced strawberries for extra color and texture if you want!

We dug in before I could even photograph it properly..

To serve, cut into large squares and drizzle with sugar syrup to taste :)

So good!!

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