This morning, my first patient walked in with a bag in hand: "Did you ever try chocolate Knefeh?" they asked. Yes, you heard right, a chocolate Knefeh, the latest innovation and possibly trend, to take Lebanon by storm within the next months.
My experience with the chocolate Knefeh started on August 11th 2013, when I first tried it at Abdulrahman Hallab. I was honestly expecting a cheese delicacy with chocolate sauce but it turned out to be different, a mix of Kashta Knefeh with a dark chocolate layer, all stuffed in a croissant. Back then, I wrote: “The inner filling is too cold and the croissant is even colder. The overall mix is served dry without any sweet syrup. I didn’t feel the chocolate flavor as I had imagined. I would add sugar syrup and a bit more chocolate, and I’d also heat the sandwich to make it crunchier and the filling a bit softer. Even though I added sugar syrup on the third and fourth bite, I still tasted bitterness – something I didn’t enjoy, especially during breakfast. This item needs improvement.”
Today's experience was different, totally different, and despite the fact that I got them delivered in a bag, so they weren’t as fresh as if I’d eaten them on the spot, the three items I tried were good.
What is Knefeh? Kenafeh, also spelled knafeh, Kunafeh, kunafeh, knafeh, or kunafah, is a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup, typical of the regions belonging to the former Ottoman Empire. It is a dessert specialty of the Levant, especially in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and northern Egypt. It is a first cousin of the Greek kadaifi and the Turkish künefe and ekmek kaday?f?. The pastry is heated in butter, margarine or palm oil, then spread with soft white cheese, and topped with more pastry. A thick syrup of sugar, water and a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water is poured on the pastry during the final minutes of cooking.
- I started with the normal Knefeh, the original, in order to have an idea of the taste of L'Abeille D'Or’s pastries. The Knefeh was in a normal piece of Kaaka and the bun was very well done, thin and not chewy, the perfect holder of the inner sweet filling. The buns were produced that morning and it showed in their fluffiness and smell. Inside is a huge portion of Knefeh that's maybe good for breakfast and lunch combined. A melted, premium quality cheese and an enjoyable sweetness that stays in the mouth for some time told me that L'Abeille D'Or knew what they were doing. Every bite combined a mix of aromas and my taste buds really appreciated the mix. Sugar syrup adds the sweet flavor to make it an enjoyable way to start your day. If that was a calorie bomb... what would happen when we added chocolate?
- The same bun, same filling and now a chocolate sauce. The chocolate Knefeh mastered to perfection by L'Abeille D'Or was a thing of my dreams. The same bun, the same filling, but the sugar syrup was replaced with a rich chocolate sauce. First the bun is opened and covered with a special mix of milk and dark chocolate to please all ages and all tastes. No sugar syrup was used so I presume the calorie outcome was around the same since one is replacing the other. A bite and here starts the journey. An enjoyable chewiness from the bun, a cheese that melted in style while the chocolate caressed my palate in style. Blending East with West, this dessert is an award winner and could represent Lebanon in competitions around the world.
- Chocolate croissant Knefeh: Do you want innovation but also feel the need for another 200 calories? L'Abeille D'Or gives you the choice of a knefeh stuffed in a chocolate croissant. The same knefeh, in a large chocolate croissant and topped with sugar syrup. I don't even want to imagine the calorie count. To be honest, I liked it, I liked it a lot. Imagine layers of puff pastry crumbling under your teeth before you reach the rich knefeh. Another hint of enjoyment is added by two fingers of chocolate lying at the bottom before you’re done. There’s no chocolate explosion, but instead flavors of fun and enjoyment. Here, the croissant is opened, soaked with sugar syrup, then two pieces of knefeh are added and topped with sugar syrup again before being wrapped in the bun.