From my Plated Heirlooms

The Flavours of Ramadan…

If there is one dessert that spells Ramadan, then Atayef 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. These dainty 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. However, unlike pancakes, Atayef batter does not include any eggs and is cooked only on one side. Then the done and cooled cakes are filled with all kinds of fillings. The traditional fillings remain forever the most favourite and they are either a cheese filling or a walnut filling. However, nowadays cooks are very creative and fill atayef with all sorts of fillings, from chocolates and pistachios, to dates, even jams and apple pie filling that is then served with a butterscotch sauce or any other sauce instead of the traditional Qater (Arabic style sugar syrup).

Traditionally, there is also another smaller version of Atayef, what we refer to as Atayef Asafiri (literally translating to bird’s atayef), maybe due to its ultra small size. These are usually half closed, the top part being filled with Ishta (Arabic fresh desserts cream)  or a canned desserts cream, dipped in ground pistachios and topped with candied rose petals. All Atayef types and versions are divine! They are a dessert that is a must try, if you haven’t before.

 

Atayef is served with Qater or what is commonly known as Ater. If you would like to make your own sugar syrup, then try my Supreme Sugar Syrup recipe on this link.

I have all the fillings and types of Atayef, including my grandfather’s famous Atayef Cake recipe covered in my book Plated Heirlooms. Grab a copy, the book is a treasure of a collection of traditional and beautiful Palestinian Cuisine recipes that you will love to own. Check out the link at the end of this post for having your copy delivered to your doorstep.

 

In this post I will share with you my favourite Atayef recipe and some tips. Starting with 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.

Atayef Buffet

Before we jump to the recipes, I also thought to inspire you to create an Atayef Buffet the next time you host an Iftar. Instead of going for the usual atayef service, why not make different kinds of the regular atayef this time along with Atayef Asafiri and place each kind/flavours in a separate tray or plate along with its accompanying sauce or sugar syrup? Then label the trays with the name of the atayef filling and syrups/sauces so your guests can make their choice. Not only is an atayef buffet scrumptiously delicious, but it is also very impressive. My friends and family love it, so am sure yours will too 🙂

Ingredients

For Atayef Batter

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups Semolina
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 4 cups warm milk
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water

For the Classic Pistachio Dipped Asafiri

  • Fresh Ishta (Arabic desserts cream, recipe in Plated Heirlooms), or canned desserts cream
  • ground pistachios
  • candied rose petals optional

Atayef Cheese filling

  • 1/2 kg DS Nabulsi Cheese, sweetened (see tip below)
  • 1/4 cup Ishta (fresh arabic desserts cream)
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp finely ground Mastic

The easiest way to make this batter is to place all in blender and blend until incorporated. Once done, place the batter in a glass bowl, cover with nylon wrap and let it rest for 2 hours. After resting for 2 hours, pour onto heated but not oiled iron skillet or heated iron flat sheet as you would a pancake. Pour in the desired size (about 2 tbsp for Atayef and 1 tbsp for Asafiri). Cook the batter on one side only until the bottoms are browned and the bubbles on the top appear to have dried out. Remove the finished cakes from the skillet and repeat until all quantity is finished. Cool the finished cakes, bottom side down, on a wire rack. Allow to completely cool before filling.

To Make Atayef Asafiri

Get the cooled mini Atayef, and fold over the sides to touch at the centre. Remember that you will seal only one half of the Atayef and leave the rest open for the filling. Press the sides of the bottom half firmly to seal. Repeat until 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 and repeat, filling all the rest of the mini atayef. Dip the cream side into the desired topping, in this case the ground pistachio. Place the finished Atayef on a serving tray or plate. Traditionally these pistachio dipped atayef asafiri are topped with candied rose petals or rose petal jam. 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.

For variation,

top the cream with roughly chopped walnuts or toasted roughly chopped almonds instead of the pistachios.

Since I love mastic, I once decided to dip my Atayef Asafiri in powdered mastic. It became my favourite variation to the recipe, I find it to be the most delicious one, but also all my family and guests who tried it loved it too.

 

Mastic 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 along with some sugar and pound until powdered, or use a spice or coffee grinder to powder it. Dip the Atayef in the powder, Divine!

Suggested toppings for Atayef Asafiri (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 fine chops of dried fruits
  • Powdered Mastic, a sprinkle of cinnamon, caraway or cardamom

 

To make the regular atayef

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

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 until all quantity is filled. If you have extra cheese filling, place in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

TIP

To sweeten DS Nabulsi cheese:

Boil the cheese in fresh water until softened and sweetened (about 20 minutes). Place in a bowl and top with fresh water and leave to soak overnight in the fridge. The next day the cheese will be sweet and ready to use in making desserts.

Nabulsi cheese is the Palestinian cheese of choice for making desserts. It is the cheese that goes into the making of Nabulsi Knafeh.

 

Traditionally Atayef is fried until golden brown right before serving, then dipped in the 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 until crisp, turning once throughout. Sprinkle with sugar syrup right at serving.

 

Some 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
  • Lavender, sweet 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, chocolate ganache, cinnamon syrup, cardamom syrup…etc

 

This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms. The book contains recipes from all sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of the cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms” here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.

Ramadan Kareem!

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