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What Are the Different Types of Lebanese Pastries?

By Andrea Cross
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pastries are popular in Lebanese cuisine, resulting in an extensive variety. Lebanese pastries can be either sweet or savory. Different types of sweet Lebanese pastries, besides the well-known baklava, include kanafeh, ma 'moul, and qatayef. Savory pastries include meat and vegetable versions, such as sambousik and fatayir bi sabaanikh, and meat tarts, such as lahm bi 'ajeen.

Baklava are perhaps the most famous form of Lebanese pastries, although they are also popular in other Middle East countries. This sweet pastry is made using numerous sheets of phyllo dough with butter brushed between each layer. The pastry is layered with nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, and it is typically spiced with cinnamon and rosewater. After the block of baklava is made, the chef cuts it into shapes, popularly diamonds, which are then deep-fried or baked. The cook then prepares a syrup made from honey, sugar, and sometimes cinnamon and pours it over the pastry.

Kenafeh are Lebanese pastries made from thin pastry strands. The cook creates the strands by drizzling the batter over a hot, spinning plate. Strands are then gathered into bundles, and the cook fries them in butter or oil before spreading on a layer of cheese. The cook then places a second bundle on top of the cheese and drizzles a layer of sugar and rosewater syrup over the top. Top layers of kenafeh are sometimes dyed with food coloring and often topped with nuts.

Ma'moul are small, shortbread pastries. These Lebanese pastries have a variety of fillings including nuts such as pistachios, walnuts, or almonds and fruits such as dates or figs. The chef forms the ma'moul into balls or flattened shapes and often serves the pastries with a white cream sauce made from egg whites, soapwort, and sugar syrup. Ma'moul are particularly popular during religious festivals.

Qatayef pastry uses the same dough as kenafeh, but the cook pours the batter onto the hot plate instead, forming a pancake-like pastry. The disc is topped with fillings such as nuts, raisins, or cheese, and seasoned with vanilla or cinnamon. One side is then flipped over, producing a half-circle shape. The cook then either deep-fries or bakes the qatayef before drizzling the finished product with syrup or honey.

Savory Lebanese pastries are also very popular. Half-circle-shaped sambousik, a deep-fried pastry, includes fillings of minced meat, onions, and pine nuts. Fatayir bi sabaanikh are small, baked pastry triangles filled with spinach and pine nuts and seasoned with cinnamon. Meat tarts, such as lahm bi 'ajeen, are also common. The pastry of these open-topped tarts is stuffed with lamb, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds.

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