Hello Sweet Tooth Saturday fans! Are you counting down the days until Ramadan yet? Today, we will be introducing the one and only, qatayef; it’s a Syrian dessert originally, but is now adored all over the Middle Eastern region, and has become a must-have treat during the month of Ramadan for many Muslims! It is made from pancake-like dough, and can be stuffed with ishta (cream), cheese, or nuts, and it can be either fried and topped with syrup, or simply made in the way the recipe below suggests. Since Ramadan is coming up, this popular treat is sure to be a favorite, and we are sharing the original version!
Thanks to Alia of Syrian Eats, @syrianeats, a Syrian-American born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we have added this to our Ramadan list of sweets! Alia’s recipe is as Syrian as her beautiful family. She says her cooking is inspired from both her mother and mother-in-law. Although they are both from Syria, they have varying cooking styles since her mother-in-law is from Aleppo and Alia’s own family is from Damascus. It never ceases to amaze me how cooking can vary so much from regions and cities even if the people are from the same country! Alia’s cooking is a combination of the two mothers’ styles mixed with her own. Her style is essentially Syrian-American, so it’s a mix of both worlds since she grew up in the U.S.
Alia has been cooking from a young age when she would dabble in the kitchen with her mom, and then even more after marriage. Her family loves her cooking so much that they encouraged her to start a channel on YouTube. She took their advice, and officially created her platform, called Syrian Eats, which can be found on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Although Syrian Eats is only a year old since its commencement in January 2019, Alia has proved her dedicated talent through many videos, and over a hundred Instagram posts!
Preserving Cultural Roots Despite Modern Day Upheaval
Alia has shared the sad reality of the political unrest that Syria experienced after the recent war began. Millions of individuals and families fled to different countries around the world. In an effort to preserve her cultural and ethnic culinary roots, her purpose and goal is to share and create the traditional meals that were cooked at home with the rest of the world through her social media platforms. Alongside her traditional roots, she likes to share her twists on American food creations as well. As she mentions, “I wanted second-generation people that don’t speak the language, or didn’t learn from their mothers, or even Syrians in college, to still be able to make a traditional meal at home.” For these reasons, she also adds Arabic subtitles to each video.
She hopes one day to create a Syrian-inspired cookbook filled with her yummy recipes. This will be a great effort to preserve her family’s best-kept recipe secrets, and traditional Syrian cooking as well, especially for the younger generations. What a thoughtful and altruistic endeavor!
Of Royalty and Ramadan
Qatayef or “atayef” is originally from the city of Damascus. This dessert was traditionally only made during the month of Ramadan and Eid. Qatayef acutallly means “picking” or “taking” in Arabic.
The first time qatayef was ever eaten was in the Umayyad era of Islamic history. The Caliph Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik al-Umayyad (the seventh Ummayad ruler) was the first to eat qatayef sweets in the month of Ramadan in 98 Hijri year.
There are varying accounts in regards to its origin, as other sources suggest it was also referred to in the Fatimid era. As the story goes, a competition arose where dessert makers and/or bakers competed to present their best sweets to the Caliph or Sultan in order to gain his satisfaction, admiration, and work in his palace.
One of the chefs decided to invent a small pancake-like dough, stuffed with nuts or cream (ishta in Arabic), then placed it neatly in a dish and decorated it with nuts. He presented his invention to the guests in the royal palace on a beautiful tray. After a bite, the guests kept rushing to him and picking out more from the tray. The baker named it “qatayef,” accordingly, and it has been popular ever since!
Full-Time Job, but Worthwhile
Alia says she wouldn’t be bustling in the kitchen for her passion, and sharing it to the world if it wasn’t for God’s will. She is grateful for her family and husband who keep the kids busy while she works, and for her subscribers and/or followers who are entranced by her creations. With three kids, she says keeping up with creating new video recipes (which includes recording, editing, and adding subtitles all by herself) for YouTube, maintaining a beautiful Instagram grid, and providing interesting Facebook updates, is like having a full-time job! Believe me, Alia, we agree with you on that! And if I can say so myself, I would even say it is like having two full-time jobs since motherhood is a full-time hustle in itself!
So without further ado, here is the ever-popular recipe that can be created in the comfort of your home!
Atayef Asafeery Recipe
A. Pastry Dough:
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of fine semolina
- 2 1/2 cups of warm water
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
B. 10-Minute Ishta (Cooked Cream or Clotted Cream):
- 1 32oz container of half and half
- 1 16oz container of heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup of corn starch
C. Atir or Qatr (Simple Syrup):
- 2 cups of granulated sugar (any cup you choose)
- 1 cup of water (has to be the same cup you measured your sugar)
- 1/2 tsp of Rose water
- 1/2 tsp of orange blossom water
- 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
- See section A in ingredients. Add all of the ingredients together in a blender. Blend until everything is well-mixed. Cover the mixture with a wet towel or paper towel, and let it rise for about one hour. After the dough has risen, mix the mixture with a spoon. Heat a skillet on medium low-heat, and add a little bit at a time to form small pancakes. The desired look is a golden tone on the bottom. Do not flip these. After they have reached a golden tone on the bottom, move them onto a tray or counter that is lined with a towel or paper towel, and cover them with another paper towel so that the mini pancakes stay moist. Repeat the process until all the dough is done. Then when you are ready to add the ishta, pinch the end of the qatayef (similar to a taco shape pinched at the end), and fill it with the ishta.
- Now we will make the cream or ishta recipe. See section B in ingredients. Add all your ishta ingredients to a pot and whisk together. Turn your heat on to medium, and keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken up and boil. Turn off the heat, and let it cool to room temperature before using. This ishta can be used for all sweets. To give it a beautiful look, pour the ishta in a piping bag with a cake decorating tip. Then pipe it on top of the qatayef. Top it off with ground pistachios and qatr (syrup).
- Now we will make the qatr or the simple syrup. See section C in ingredients. Over medium heat in a sauce pan, add your sugar and water, and let it boil for about five minutes. Then add the lemon juice. Let it boil for another five minutes. Then turn off the heat. Stir in your rose water and orange blossom water. Let it cool before drizzling on the atayef.
You can also follow along with Alia as she makes these delicacies by watching the video below!
We really look forward to stocking our pantry with these ingredients, and trying the historically glorious “Atayef Asafeery” for ourselves! Thank you Alia for sharing this timeless Middle-Eastern classic with us! Please check out Alia’s mesmerizing recipes on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, under the name of Syrian Eats or @SyrianEats.