I love any Middle Eastern dessert that is made with sweet cheese and semolina, and this one is definitely high on the must-make list for all of you who might just be starting out making and learning about the desserts of the region. I love the little pockets filled with sweet Syrian cheese and just enough syrup to make this a very decadent dessert.
If you don't live in close proximity to a Middle Eastern market, I will make sure to point out where you can make easy (and really common!) substitutions with ingredients from your local grocery store in the ingredients section.
Halawet El-Jibn, Syrian Cheese Dessert Rolls
(Makes around 12 rolls)
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup farina (Farina is the same thing as Cream of Wheat.)
1 pound fresh Syrian (Akkawi) or mozzarella cheese, sliced (You could also do a mix of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.)
2 cups ashta custard (or marscapone cheese)
2 tablespoons pistachios, ground
To make Attar (thin Arabic simple syrup) -
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or rose water), optional
1) Start by making the simple syrup (also known as 'attar'). Mix the sugar and water and bring it to a boil. Add lemon juice and boil for 7 more minutes. When cool, add orange blossom water.
2) In a large pot over medium heat, cook butter, semolina, and farina for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of attar to the pot, stir, and cook for 3 minutes.
3) Add mozzarella to the pot, and cook, stirring vigorously, for about 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Pour 1/2 cup attar onto a baking sheet and spread out to coat all sides.
4) Pour cheese mixture onto the baking sheet, and using the back of a wooden spoon, spread out to the size of the baking sheet. Cool for 15 minutes.
5) Run a knife down the baking sheet lengthwise, making two cuts in the sheet and forming three columns. Then make three more cuts width-wise, so you have 12 equal-size pieces.
6) Place 3 tablespoons ashta custard or marscapone at one end of each piece, roll, place seam side down on a plate.To serve, sprinkle each piece with ground pistachios and a drizzle of the remaining attar syrup.