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Knafeh or Kunafeh Cheescake

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kunafeh bjebn filo

Lebanese and Middle Eastern delight: the kunafeh bjebn, a dessert of cheese, filo dough is a Levant favorite.

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Definition: Knafeh or Kunafeh Cheescake (its spelling variations are as endlesss as its recipe variations) is a dessert specialty of the Levant, especially in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria and northern Egypt. It is a first cousin of the Greek kadaifi (or, in Greek, κα(ν)ταΐφι) and the Turkish künefe.

Knafeh bjebn, as it is known in Lebanon (Knafeh with cheese), is often eaten for breakfast with a sesame-sprinkled kaaké, the Lebanese version of the bagel (though more hollow in its center, crispier and lighter).

Knafeh consists of a specialty dough known as filo or phylo that dries into a vermicelli-looking pastry that eventually wraps over soft white cheese like Nabulsi cheese or variants of the mozzarella family. A topping of heavy syrup lightened by rosewater, or katr in Arabic, and crushed nuts results in one of the most delightful (and seriously filling) delicacies in the Middle East.

On July 18, 2009, in Nablus, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city in the West Bank, cooks and helpers under the direction of Muhanned al-Rabbe, a Palestinian pastry baker, produced a 243-foot (74 meters) long, 1.05 meters wide kunafa that weighed close to 4,000 pounds (1,756 kg). The dish set the world record for the largest Knafeh.

Alternate Spellings: Knefe, Kanefeh, Kunafah, Kanafeh, kunāfah, kataifi, kadaifi, kadayıf, künefe, kadaif
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