Today I’m sharing stuffed pancake pockets with syrup, or atayef or qatayef.
You may have started to notice that even though Ramadan is a month of fasting, it’s also a month of food. Since there is just one meal at the end of the day, food traditions are an utmost importance, and so is providing that food for others. Here in Dubai, food bank fridges all over the city set up for donations. Supermarkets and mosques also serve as food distribution centers for those who can’t afford their own meal. Careem (Middle Eastern Uber) will even drive the food to those locations for free.
I’ve already given a glimpse of the main elements of a breaking fast meal: soup and a side dish to that soup. Another very important component is dessert, and boy oh boy are those sweets indulgent. There are 2 different versions of these sweet pancake pockets. One is served cold with clotted cream. The other, which I’m sharing today, is stuffed with cheese or nuts, deep fried and smothered in syrup 🤯.
My family has many memories with this sweet treat. I talked before about how Syrians and other Levantine people love to eat cheese in desserts. They use a special kind of sweet cheese before it’s salted and preserved, which is usually only available to bakeries for halawe and kunafe, but during Ramadan, it’s made available to households so they can make their own qatayef.
My dad remembers his dad going to the bakery about an hour before iftar to pick up pancakes freshly made from the bakery. Earlier in the day, they pick up the fresh cheese, which at the time they would leave out on the counter to ferment a little bit (these days it’s refrigerated). When the pancakes came home, they were stuffed with cheese, ready to be deep fried after the breaking fast meal. My grandmother always made her rose water scented syrup, a necessary component of Levantine sweets, for the pockets to go in after frying. My dad smiled as he remembered the extra pulliness of the cheese, which could probably go on for meters, a signature of the qatayef of Homs (his hometown).
To this day, he dies for my mom’s qatayef. She makes a walnut version as well, but he always dives deep for the cheese. I’m sharing both versions today.
When my parents moved to the United States, there were no bakeries for them to get the pancakes, so they found a way to make their own. The recipe for these pancakes was passed down through a few different families, and it’s a recipe that many Syrian Americans I know use. There are 2 main differences between making these and regular pancakes: the use of yeast, which gives them the signature air bubbles, and they’re only cooked on one side.
The recipe for these pancakes is seriously super yummy! When I made them for some relatives who have only had the bakery version, they said these pancakes were way better! The addition of orange blossom water in the batter adds some nice fragrant complexity that makes it so mouth wateringly delicious.
The “original” recipe uses Aunt Jemima pancake mix. Since I know for those in the Middle East, Aunt Jemima can be quite expensive, I made some modifications based on some online resources to make it at home. If you have access to Aunt Jemima’s I provided the recipe for you as well.
I do hope you give these a try! If you do, don’t forget to put it in the comments and tag @omayahatassi and #omayahcooks on Instagram. I love to see your creations!
Stuffed Pancake Pockets with Syrup (Qatayef)
Deep fried of cheese or walnut-stuffed pancakes smothered in syrup. A sweet served traditionally during Ramadan, but a delicious treat anytime of year! Pockets can be made up to 2 days ahead and wrapped in paper towels and refrigerated in a zip top bag.
*Note: if you have access to Aunt Jemima's pancake mix, combine 1 c Aunt Jemima's, 1 c flour, envelope of yeast, 2 Tbsp orange blossom and 1/2 tsp sugar. Directions are the same as follows.
Makes: About 24
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 c all purpose flour
1.5 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 envelope instant yeast (11 g)
2 Tbsp orange blossom water
2 c water plus 2 Tbsp
Neutral oil for frying
*if you have access to Aunt Jemima's see note above
4 oz. Sweet white unsalted cheese, like Akkawi, crumbled
1/4 c walnuts, chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 c sugar
1 c water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp rose water
- Combine all the ingredients with the water and whisk together until a smooth batter forms and no lumps remain. Rest for 30-45 minutes.
- Heat an electric griddle or large skillet on high for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to medium. Pour batter onto the griddle or skillet to form 3-4 inch rounds. You will start to see bubbles forming on the surface. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes, watching carefully and removing immediately when the entire surface becomes matte. Transfer to a large tray and repeat with remaining batter.
- Rest the pancakes for about 30 minutes and prepare the syrup. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over high. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves and the water starts to boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, set aside.
- Prepare the filling by crumbling the cheese in one bowl and combining the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. Take a pancake, place either cheese or a spoon of the walnut mixture in the center and pinch to close. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
- Pour oil in a large stockpot to cover the bottom by about 1 inch. Heat until a piece of bread is dropped in and starts cooking immediately, or until it reaches 125C/350F. Deep fry the pancake pockets until they turn golden-brown and crispy, about 1 minute. Immediately drop into the syrup and toss. Set on a plate and serve immediately.
- Pancake pockets can be made up to 2 days ahead. Wrap in paper towels and store in a zip-top back in the fridge. Syrup can be made up to 5 days ahead and stored in the fridge. Before making qatayef, warm the syrup up a bit.