Künefe with Morello Cherries

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Künefe is a classic Turkish dessert, which must be eaten warm right after it comes out of the oven. In Turkey, restaurants ask you to place your künefe order with the main course so the kitchen has plenty of time to make it before the desert is served. The version given here is our own variation of this classic dessert.  Our recipe uses dark morello cherries, which are extremely popular in Turkey during summer months. After we started baking this dessert, our friends loved it so much that it became a staple of our kitchen.


INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 jar of Trader Joe's "Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup"
  • 3/4 - 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pound shredded filo dough
  • 8 oz sweet künefe cheese sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores or fresh mozzarella
  • 3.5 oz butter


DIRECTIONS:

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  1. You need to make the syrup ahead of time such that it has plenty of time to cool before the kunefe comes out of the oven.
  2. It is important to use clarified butter for the best künefe. You can turn regular butter into clarified butter easily by simmering the butter in a sauce pan at low heat for about 20 minutes. The milk solids separate from the fat and rise to the surface. They can then be collected with a spoon and discarded.
  3. One jar of Trader Joe's Dark Morella Cherries makes two 9" round kunefes. Save half ofthe juice and the cherries for another day.
  4. Pour the juice into a small pot, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer for 12 minutes.
  5. Add the cherries, continue to simmer for ten minutes.
  6. Take out the cherries, continue simmering for another 10 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool down to room temperature.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  9. Coarsely grate the cheese and set it aside.
  10. Cut the shredded dough into 1/4 inch (~ 1/2 cm) long pieces using kitchen scissors. Use your hands to mix the shredded dough with the clarified butter in a bowl.
  11. Spread half of the dough in a 9 inch baking pan.
  12. Spread the cheese mixture evenly on the dough.
  13. Finish it off by spreading the remaining shredded dough on the cheese mixture. Gently press on the kunefe with your hands.
  14. Bake the kunefe for 35 minutes in the preheated oven on the center rack. As soon as you take the kunefe out of the oven, pour the cold syrup over the sizzling hot künefe evenly using a spoon. Let the kunefe absorb the syrup for a few minutes.
  15. Turn the künefe over to your serving plate.
  16. Spread the top with morella cherries.
  17. Serve immediately.
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