If you have been to Jerusalem’s old city, you may be familiar with m’tabbak, puffed pastries stuffed with sweet cheese and drenched in syrup. The traditional dough used for this recipe is often thinly rolled, filled with an unsalted goat’s cheese, folded into an envelope, brushed with butter, and baked in a hot oven. My family most often uses ready-made puff pastry for instant pleasure. And the result is, in our opinion, even more gratifying.
I like to scent the qater (sweet syrup) with orange blossom water, which is not so common for this particular dessert, but I can never resist the temptation. As for the cheese, you should be able to find desalted akawwi cheese at your local Middle Eastern grocer. Be sure to taste it before using in the dessert. If it still has a salty flavor, let it soak in water in the refrigerator, changing the liquid every few hours or so as needed. If akkawi cheese is not within your reach, you may substitute it with ricotta. The former, however, will give you the most genuine experience.
I have provided the measurements I used as a reference point, but this is meant to be a rustic and relaxed dessert. Using high quality and fresh ingredients will determine the success of the outcome. So don’t worry about precision and enjoy the culinary journey.
I hope you relish this recipe as much as my family and I do. And if you give it a try, feel free to share your photo with me on Instagram (hanadyskitchen). I always love seeing your creations.
INGREDIENTS/ MAKES 6 PASTRIES
For the Pastries
1/2 sheet puff pastry (5-inch x 11-inch), thawed
300 grams/10.5 ounces desalted akkawi cheese, well drained
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
For the Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
few drops or 1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Begin by preparing the qater, or sweet syrup. Add the water and sugar to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and boil for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is fully dissolved. Stir in the orange blossom water and lemon juice. Set aside.
Crumble the akkawi cheese in coarse chunks into a bowl or briefly pulse in a food processor. You want the pieces to be slightly coarse and not finely crumbled. Pat the cheese with a paper towel to dry it from excess liquid. Stir in the sugar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400F/200C and lightly butter a large baking tray or sheet pan. Place the half sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface and cut the dough horizontally into three equal pieces. Roll out one piece to form a rectangle that is about 7-inch x 12.5-inch. Make a horizontal cut in the center so that you have two squares. Roll out a square as thinly as you can manage, about 7.5-inch x 7.5-inch or 8-inch by 8-inch. Lightly brush the surface with melted butter and spoon about 3 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the center of the square, leaving a 2-inch border around it. Gently seal the pastry by folding in the vertical angles and then the horizontal angles, to make an envelope. Place the pastry on your baking sheet and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with the remaining square and the rest of the dough.
Bake the prepared pastries for about 10-13 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, drizzle generously with sweet syrup, and top with crushed pistachios. And as always, enjoy with good company.
METHOD IN VISUALS