Monday, February 06, 2017

Palestinian Warbat

A friend posted this recipe to Facebook the other day, with a sentiment along the lines of, "when times get hard, we need something sweet!" I have a few novels and memoirs by Palestinian writers that I'm planning to read soon, so the baked good fits in with my reading goals, just the way I like it!

I will link to the recipe I used, but you have to be a Facebook user to access it. Warbat is like a lot of Middle Eastern desserts, where every person making it seems to use a slightly different recipe and method. Some have a milk custard inside, some have pistachios and some don't, some fold the phyllo up like spanikopita (which would have helped keep the filling out), some (like me!) use orange blossom water instead of rose water, and so on. I watched quite a few videos on YouTube and it looks like most people making warbat are making four small triangles with the filling pointing into the center of a larger square; mine were quite large in comparison, a quarter of a phyllo sheet size.

Warbat also shares a very similar ingredient list to kunefe, a recipe which I've had associated with Turkish cooking lessons but never made any at home. Both recipes use an unsalted soft cheese. I was lucky to find the right kind at the Pita House in town, but you could substitute a unsalted white cheese from Mexico or Italy, or even try ricotta. I highly recommend the orange blossom over rose water, as far as my personal tastes go.

(recipe transcribed from POP Palestine Cuisine in Facebook, with some alterations and additions)

Pre-made phyllo, thawed and kept under/inside damp towel.
Melted unsalted butter
300 mL water*
300 g sugar*
1/2 lemon
1 tsp orange blossom water
Soft white cheese, shredded or pulled apart
Additional granulated sugar to mix with the cheese

Over medium-high heat, stir together sugar and water. Heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is agitated or has started to boil. Add squeeze of lemon juice and orange blossom water, and allow to boil another 5 minutes, until mixture is clear and slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a pan with parchment paper, but use one with some type of edge in case the cheese squeezes out and the butter smokes on the bottom, which is what happened to me.

Lay one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board and brush with butter. Repeat with four more sheets. Cut into squares, depending on the size of the phyllo you will have 4 or 6. Sprinkle sugar over the cheese and mix. Mound cheese into the center of the square, and fold over, pressing the buttery parts together. Place on pan and brush with butter on the outside.

Bake 40 minutes or until browned. Pour or brush syrup over, and sprinkle with ground pistachios if desired.

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