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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Atayef Buffet - The Heavenly Flavours of Ramadan

Serves Many | Easy

Atayef are the one dessert that spill Ramadan

If there is one dessert that spills Ramadan, Atayef (Qatayef) is IT! This is the one dessert that is only made in Ramadan. Atayef belongs to Arabic cuisine and is this cuisine's take on pancakes. 

Making Atayef Asafeeri

These batter-based cakes are in every way similar to pancakes. Made out of a batter, that is poured onto a hot iron skillet or a hot iron flat sheet to cook is in essence the same concept of making pan cakes. The only difference though is that Atayef batter is cooked only on one side, yet this one sided cooking keeps till the batter is done on both sides. Then the done cake is filled with all kinds of fillings - traditionally a cheese filling or a walnut filling. There is another smaller version of Atayef, what we refer to as Atayef Asafeeri (literally translating to bird's atayef), maybe due to its ultra small size. These are usually half filled with local creme fraiche or canned cream, dipped in ground pistachios and topped with candied rose petals. All Atayef are divine! They are a dessert that is a must try, if you have not before. 

Atayef are usually served with Ater (Sugar Syrup)

Atayef is served with Qater or what is commonly known as Ater (sugar syrup). If you would like to make your own sugar syrup, then try my Supreme Sugar Syrup recipe, which I have posted earlier on.

In this post I will share with you my best ever Atayef recipes, from the batter (should you need or want to make your own), to the fillings (traditional and newer versions), toppings and accompanying sauces. Of course you can also refer to the sugar syrup recipe for a wholesome, all home-made dessert. 

Before we hop onto the recipes, I also thought to inspire create an Atayef Buffet the next time you host an Iftar. Make different kids of atayef and atayef asafeeri and place each kind in a separate tray or plate along with its accompanying sauce or sugar syrup. Label the trays with the name of the atayef filling so your guests can make their choice. Not only is an atayef buffet scrumptiously delicious, but it is also very impressive. My firends and family love it, so am sure yours will too :)

For Atayef Batter
You Need
2 cups flour
2 cups Samolina
1 tbsp milk powder
1 tbsp instant yeast
4 cups warm water
1/4 cup orange blossom water

The easiest way to make this batter is to place all in blender and blend till incorporated. Place in a glass bowl, cover with nylon wrap and let rest for 2 hours.

Cook till bottoms are slightly browned and tops appear to have dried out
After resting for 2 hours, pour onto heated but not oiled iron skillet (for best results use cast iron skillet) or heated iron flat sheet. Pour in the desired size (about 2 tbsp for Atayef and 1 tbsp for Asafeeri). Cook the batter on one side only till the bottoms brown and the bubbles on the top appear to have dried out.
Cool on wire racks bottom side down
Remove the finished cakes from the skillet and repeat till all quantity is finished. Cool the finished cakes, bottom side down, on a wire rack. Allow to completely cool before filling. 

Classic Pistachio Dipped Atayef Asafeeri &
My Favourite Mistka Dipped Atayef Asafeeri

Let's start with Asafeeri 
For the Classic Pistachio Dipped Assafeeri
You need
Local Fresh cream
Local Fresh Cream, or canned desserts cream
ground pistachios
candied rose petals optional

Get the cooled mini Atayef, and fold over the sides to touch at the centre. Remember that you will seal one half of the Atayef and leave the rest open for the filling. press the sides firmly with your fingers to seal.

Press the sides onto each others with your fingers, sealing
only one half and leaving the other half open to fill with the filling.

Repeat till all quantity is finished. With a small spoon, scoop out a little cream - enough to fill the opening. Place the cream at the opening to fill, add more cream if not enough.

Fill the opening with cream
Repeat, and fill all the rest of the mini atayef. Dip the cream side into the desired topping, in this case the ground pistachio. 

dip cream side into desired topping
 Place the finished Atayef on serving tray or plate. Traditionally these pistachio dipped atayef asafeeri are topped with candied rose petals. You can do that or you can top them with only pistachio. I would make both, and leave it up to my guests to choose.

Candied rose petals

For variation, top the cream with roughly chopped walnuts or toasted roughly chopped almonds instead of the pistacios.

Walnut dipped atayef asafeeri

Since I love Mistka, I once decided to dip my Atayef Asafiri in powdered Mistka. It became my favourite variation to the recipe, as I find it to be the most delicious one. 

Mistka dipped Atayef Asafeeri

Mistka can be found at your local spice market, or specialised Arabic sweets shops or confectioneries. They usually come as crystals, place the crystals in a plastic bag and bash till powdered, or use a spice or coffee grinder to powder it. Dip the Atayef in the powder, Divine!

Bash the Mistka crystals to powder

TIP  Suggested toppings for Atayef Asafeeri (to top the cream)
  • Ground Toasted Nuts (Pistachio, walnut, pecan, macadamia, almond)
  • Candied rose petals, candied orange or lemon peel, candied banana
  • Toasted Coconut, or sesame seeds
  • Strips or rough chops of dried fruits
  • Powdered Mistka, a sprinkle of cinnamon, caraway or cardamom

Regular Atayef

To make Regular Atayef
Cheese filling
You Need
1/2 kg white cheese (you can go for one made especially for sweets, or just soak white cheese pieces in cold water over night to sweeten)
1/4 cup fresh local cream, or canned cream
2 tbsp black sesame seeds (habet il barakeh)
1 tsp finely ground Mistka

Classic cheese filling for Atayef
Make the atayef (cakes), the same as you would the Asafeeri, except bigger. Place on wire rack to cool completely before filling. 
Make the filling by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to incorporate. Place 1 tsp cheese filling in the centre of the atayef. 

Seal all sides firmly to enclose the filling

Fold the sides over to touch at the centre. Squeeze firmly with your fingers to seal and continue until you have sealed all sides in the shape of a half moon. Repeat till all desired quantity is filled. If yoou have extra cheese filling, place in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Traditionally Atayef is fried till golden brown right before serving, then dipped in Sugar syrup, drained and placed on serving tray. I prefer to bake them instead of frying them. Simply brush both sides of atayef with vegetable oil, place in a baking dish and bake till crisp, turning once throughout. sprinkle with sugar syrup right at serving.

Cooked atayef can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Uncooked, filled atayef can be frozen till ready to use for up to 1 month. Just thaw before frying or baking. These steps are the same and apply to all atayef filiings, except the banaba and chocolate one, which has to be made and served on the spot, for the bananas not to expire.

For the Classic Nut Filling
the classic filling is made out of chopped walnuts and almonds. Frankly I am not a big fan of this filling! I love nuts, so I came up with another version for the Nut-filled Atayef, inspired by my mum's nut filling with some added extra. here you go:
You Need
500g roughly chopped walnuts
300g coarsely chopped almonds
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp toasted coconut
3 tbsp raisins (optional)

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and mix to incorporate. place 1 tsp of nut filling in the centre of atayef and seal as instructed above. Any leftover nut filling can be frozen for up to 6 months, or refrigerated for up to 3 months.

TIP After Ramadan, if you still have left over nut filling, use in making nut cake. I also usually mix these leftovers with the carrot cake and they taste delicious and compliment the flavours of the carrot cake :)

For Apple Filling
You Need
1 grated apple
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp roughly chopped toasted pecans
1 tbsp raisins (optional) 

Mix all in a large bowl and fill atayef as instructed above.

Dima's Suggested Non-classic Atayef Fillings:
  •  Classic Cheese or Nuts
  • Apple Filling
  • Chocolate spread, banana slices and chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Ashta (cream) & Nuts
  • Ground pistachio, soaked in orange blossom water
  • Pitted Dates soaked in rose water and and blended into a paste, served with butterscotch sauce or white chocolate cream
  • Lavander, sweets cheese and honey
  • Dark Chocolate & Candied orange
  • Peanut butter & chocolate, banana or jam...... the list is endless
Sugar syrup is usually the accompanying syrup, but you can also serve with butterscotch sauce, white chocolate cream, chocolate syrup, cinnamon syrup, cardamom syrup...etc

These posts are to help inspire you,
but I leave it up to you to go for your favourite flavours and combinations,
 let me know how your creations go :)

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Ramadan Kareem!