Geila Hocherman‘s blog made it’s very promising debut yesterday featuring a recipe for incredibly delicious blintzes, thus I was inspired to look for alternative recipes from cultures other than my own or Geila’s Eastern European one. I wanted something different, or at least a different way of making the equivalent of traditional Ashkenazi blintzes. For many years I’d heard of Syrian ‘Atayef and finally I found a recipe in Poopa Dweck‘s Aromas of Aleppo.
‘Ataiyef is not your ordinary Sunday morning pancake. Filled with ricotta cheese, deep-fried, dipped in chopped pistachio nuts, and topped with shira (Fragrant Aleppian Dessert Syrup), it is more like a five-star dessert. Aleppian Jews eat ‘ataiyef on happy occasions such as engagement parties.
these pancakes are one of the dairy foods customarily eaten during Shavuot (feestival of the giving of the torah). King Solomon’s “Song of Songs,” particularly the words “honey and milk are under your tongue,” inspired this dish. the sweetness of shira shares a symbolic connection with the sweetness of Torah, which the Jews received on Shavuot. ‘Ataiyef is also served on Hanukkah because it is fried, and thus symbolizes the miracles of oil celebrated on that holiday.
While this recipe offers a way to make the batter from scratch, you may find commercial pancake mixes more convenient than homemade.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup vegetarian oil
- 1 cup shira (see below*)
- 1 cup pistachios shelled, blanched, peeled and finely chopped (see below**)
- preheat a griddle pan over medium heat. wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
- Combine the flower, baking soda, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and 2 1/2 cups water to the mixture. stir the mixture until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps.
- Make the pancakes by pouring water, 1 tablespoon at a time, onto the griddle. Shape the batter into 3-inch-wide pancake, much like a thin crepe. cook on one side only. remove the pancake, when bubbles appear on its surface. keep the cooked pancakes by covering them with a clean towel.
- Place 1-teaspoon ricotta cheese in the uncooked center of each pancake. Fold the pancake in half and pinch the sides firmly closed. Fill the pancakes as quickly as possible so they do not dry out. (At this point, the pancakes may be frozen for later use.)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil until it sizzles upon contact with a drop of water. Deep-fry the filled pancakes in the cold shira. Dip the point of each pancake in pistachio nuts. To ensure a crispy texture, place the pancakes on a tray in a single layer; do not stack or cover them.
For a non-dairy version, combine 2 cups firmly chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and substitute for the ricotta.
Yield: About 4 dozen pancakes
* Shira – Fragrant Aleppian Syrup
This simple syrup is a component of so many Aleppian desserts that it is a fixture in Aleppian refrigerators. The addition of rose or orange blossom water imbues it with an exotic flavor for which the Middle East is renowned.
When preparing shira, it is important to get the right consistency. For some Syrian sweets, a thicker syriup may be necessary. To thicken the syrup, keep it on tn the heat a a bit longer; if it is too thick, add some water and simmer again. when pouring shira over hot pastries, the syrup should be cold so the pastries stay crisp.
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water or rose water
- Combine the sugar, lemon juice, orange blossom water, and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the syrup slides slowly down the back of a spoon.
- Allow the syrup to cool. use immediately or pour into a glass jar and refrigerate. it will keep for up to2 months.
All helou recipes use orange blossom water, rose water is used for other sweets.
Yield: 2 cups
** Shelled, blanched and Peeled Pistachios
The tin, edible skin of the pistachio can easily be removed from the nut by blanching it. Cover shelled pistachios with boiling water and let them stand for 4 to 6 minutes, then peel off the skins.
Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy! I most certainly will… my mouth is watering already.