Picking a favorite cuisine is difficult.
I can make a good case for a number of different ones—Mediterranean (always so fresh!), Indian (the spice blends!), Korean (top it all with kimchi!), French (the mother of sauces!), and so on and so on.
When I got my assignment for Secret Recipe Club this month, I was elated to see that it was full of Middle Eastern recipes, a cuisine that I’d like more of in my repertoire. In fact, Sawsan’s Chef In Disguise blog is like an encyclopedia of authentic, mouthwatering dishes from the region. Born in Palestine, raised in Jordan, and currently living in the United Arab Emirates, Sawsan not only shows you how to make a dish (with impeccable directions) but also gives you the history behind it.
I had a really hard time narrowing down which recipe to recreate, but ultimately settled on atayef asaferi, or Arabic pancakes. I loved the concept—a simple batter is cooked into small pancakes, stuffed with cream, and dipped into pistachios. The result is not only beautiful in presentation, but delicious.
Sawsan spent much time perfecting this recipe, so I knew not to mess with it. The only substitution I made was to use ricotta cheese instead of the clotted cream, simply due to availability of the ingredient in the States. Things start off easily enough, with whisking together the dry ingredients and then adding in the wet.
Next, the atayef are cooked, but only on one side so that later on they can be sealed up. You’ll test a couple and look for the telltale bubbles across the surface, indicating that you’re batter is just right.
Because the pancakes are cooked only on one side, the remaining side stays moist. To keep it that way, you’ll want to cover your pancakes with a kitchen towel to keep in the moisture.
Once you’ve used up all your batter, it’s time to form the atayef. This process is rather simple, simply fold into a semicircle and pinch halfway up the side.
Next, spoon in the filling (a little ricotta mixed with cinnamon and cardamon).
And dip into your crushed pistachios.
When you’re ready to eat, you can drizzle the atayef with a little bit of maple syrup, or, for a more authentic touch, some rosewater syrup.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup semolina flour
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon baking powder (may need more, see instructions)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1½ cups warm water (may need more, see instructions)
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamon
- ⅔ cup crushed pistachios
- Maple syrup or rosewater syrup
- In a large bowl, mix together all purpose flour, semolina flour, yeast, baking powder, and sugar. Add in vegetable oil and water and whisk until mixture is thin and clump-free. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of batter to center. You should bubbles form around the edges and then spread to the entire surface. If the bubbles don't spread, your batter is too thick. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the batter, whisk, and try again. If you add water and get the same result the second time, try adding ½ a teaspoon of baking powder, whisk, and try again. You should now see bubbles forming across your entire atayef.
- Your atayef is done cooking when it is no longer shiny and the bottom has browned evenly, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer atayef to a clean kitchen towel and cover to keep in moisture (and make it easy to seal). Continue to make remaining atayef until batter runs out. Layer atayef on kitchen towel with like sides facing each other (bubbly side touches bubbly side of next atayef, cooked sides touches cooked side, etc).
- In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta, ground cinnamon, and ground cardamon. Pour crushed pistachios into a shallow bowl or small plate.
- To stuff, fold the atayef in a half circle and pinch along the sides, stopping halfway up. Use a small spoon to scoop ricotta mixture into the opening, then dip atayef into pistachios.
- Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.
Recipe adapted from Chef in Disguise.