Halawat el Jibn is the canoli of the Middle East. Its name translates to The Sweetness of Cheese. Delicately sweet, fragrant with orange blossom and rose water, this dessert will make you the talk of the town. Mom and I tested out some ideas and had a blast putting together an easy recipe, done in steps.
A little known fact about us Middle Easterners is our fondness for fragrant flowers, to the extent that we incorporate them into our cooking. Orange blossoms are prevalent in Arabic desserts, while rose petals and saffron (the stamen of a specific crocus flower) make frequent appearances in Persian dishes, both sweet and savory. Cortas brand is my favorite and is readily available at Middle Eastern grocers. Support your local community and look around your neighborhood for a good mom & pop shop. You can also order online at Persian Basket.
You will need three different pots, two of which require attention, but can be made ahead of time. Make the filling and syrup first as they need time to cool. Then, make the batter for the cheese crêpes, roll it paper-thin between two large sheets of parchment paper and assemble.
This is a traditional version, but don’t be afraid to be adventurous with the syrup and topping. Infuse simple syrup with lemon juice and a drop of culinary grade lavender oil. Instead of crushed pistachios, garnish with edible lavender buds or rose petals (but sparingly) and freshly grated lemon zest. This recipe makes enough to feed a wedding party, but I suggest you stick with the plan, because you will want to share this one with every soul you know!
Halawat el Jibn
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 15 mins
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water
5 Tb cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half & half
1 tsp butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup semolina
6 cups (1 1/2 lbs) mozzarella, shredded by hand
2 Tb crushed pistachios
Edible rose petals or rose petal jam
Make the syrup
Heat water and sugar and until has dissolved.
Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat.
Let the syrup cool, then add the rose and orange blossom waters.
Make cream filling
Add a few drops of cream to cornstarch and stir to a smooth paste.
Add the rest of the cream and 1/2 & 1/2.
Set over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon.
Remove from heat, pass through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and let filling cool to room temp.
Cover with plastic and chill in fridge.
Make the crepe
Melt butter, then add water and bring to a gentle boil.
Lower the heat and add the semolina, a bit at a time, stirring between additions.
Stir til thick and smooth.
When it looks like the consistency of mashed potatoes,
add the shredded mozzarella and stir until it melts.
Place a big piece of plastic wrap onto a clean, flat surface and brush with a bit of syrup.
Transfer dough to the center of the prepared plastic wrap.
Lay another strip of plastic wrap on top and roll to an even 1/4-inch
Spoon some filling in a line along one edge, roll twice and cut “log” lengthwise.
Spoon more onto the edge, roll, roll, cut.
Lay the “logs” onto a clean tray, cover with plastic wrap and chill 2-3 hours.
Remove from the fridge and use a sharp knife to cut into bite-sized morsels.
Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and garnish with a bit of rose petal jam.
Serve with extra syrup and coffee or tea.