Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rose & Saffron Cream Kunafa Nests

As soon as the countdown to Eid nears one of the first things we tend to think of in our household is what sweets to prepare. This is especially true when we know it's going to be a long day of welcoming guests and needing to make something that's quick yet still impressive to serve with that first post-Ramadan afternoon tea! And so the idea for these Rose and Saffron Cream Kunafa Nests was born.

One of my absolute favourite Arabic desserts is kunafa (otherwise spelt as knafeh) - typically a dessert made up of two crisp layers of vermicelli, stuffed with a light but sweet cheese, and then soaked or drizzled with a wonderful rose sugar syrup concoction. I love how it cleverly uses cheese for that sweet and savory combo, which personally makes it irresistible.
Hence the idea behind this dessert came from my love of kunafa, whilst being inspired by a mix of those ingredients which are commonly used in Middle-Eastern and Asian sweets - rose petals, pistachio and saffron. All have long been used in a very festive way in both Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. Here instead of the usual akawi cheese, I decided to combine my beloved mascarpone (see previous recipes) with kunafa dough strands to create a dessert that, like the tradtional kunafa, is crunchy, sweet, creamy and aromatic all at the same time. Not to mention, it also looks very pretty once put together.

Using a cupcake tin also has its advantage as it means easy individual sized portions which aren't too filling, yet still worthy of seconds. Both the kunafa nests and mascarpone cream mix can be made ahead, so as to be assembled before serving.

Rose & Saffron Cream Kunafa Nests
Makes 12 nests. Preparation time 45 minutes.

250g kunafa dough, defrosted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 & half tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water
5-6 strands of saffron
250g tub of mascarpone
40g icing sugar
Pistachio slivers, for decorating
Dried rose petals, for decorating
Persian fairy floss, for decorating

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C, and using a cupcake tray shape and roll the kunafa strands into each mould of the tray. Bake in the oven for about ten minutes, keeping an eye out until they are golden in colour. Remove and leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile make the sugar syrup by boiling the water and sugar together for about three minutes, until the sugar has melted. Leave to cool slightly and then add one teaspoon each of the rose and orange blossom water. Add the saffron strands and mix to get a yellow tint.
3. To make the cream topping, combine together the mascarpone, icing sugar and remaining one and a half teaspoons of rose water.
4. To assemble, drizzle one teaspoon of the sugar syrup over each of the kunafa nests, and leave to soak for five minutes. Now using a teaspoon, dollop the mascarpone cream mix over each nest, and drizzle a little more sugar syrup over. Decorate with Persian fairy floss, pistachio slivers and rose petals before serving.

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