Knafeh flavored lotus pastries

I have been meaning to make lotus pastries for a long time now. They’re a hugely popular snack in China, consisting of flaky layers of fried dough, wrapped around a filling. As the name suggests, they are assembled and cut in a way that when deep fried, the dough blossoms and resembles a lotus. It’s really cool, and I just love the idea of attempting something like this. When it came to my recipe, I did a lot of research on other recipes just to cross reference the constants. I noticed that this dough is almost laminated in a similar way to the butter block method that you would use for croissants, except instead of butter, this recipe would use lard or in my case, I used oil. For the filling, traditionally, lotus seed paste or red bean paste would be used. However, I’m not a traditionalist in a lot of senses, so I wanted to do my own riff on this. So I went with the first thing that popped into my head that would be delicious with flaky pastry, and that was knafeh. The creamy cheese filling, deep fried in flaky dough, that’s already a huge hit right there. With the simple syrup, pistachios, and a whipped labneh ice cream, and it’s like you’re taking a vacation to the Middle East via China. The inspiration for the ice cream was just wanting something tangy and creamy to offset the crunchy layers of pastry, and to allude to the dairy that was used in my filling. For the filling, I hybridized a knafeh filling with lotus root starch, which I used to thicken and bind the cheeses so that they don’t just explode or burn. What’s cool about that is the filling almost tastes like a Brazilian cheese bread or mochi in the consistency, but it is still somehow creamy.

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Makes 5 servings or 16 lotus pastries:
For the frozen labneh:
1 cup labneh
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup kefir
a pinch of salt

Melt together the sugar and kefir over a double boiler. Whisk into the labneh and season with salt. Churn in the ice cream machine for 20 minutes, then freeze for 1 hour.

For the oil dough:
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons lard or oil
1 tablespoon water

Knead together to form a dough. Divide into 16 pieces.

For the regular dough:
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons lard or oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup water

Knead together to form a dough. Divide into 16 pieces.

For the filling:
1/4 cup ricotta cheese, strained of water
3. tablespoons lotus root starch
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon rosewater
1/4 cup finely diced fresh mozzarella
a pinch of salt

Combine water, sugar, salt, and lotus root starch together and bring to a simmer. Whisk until heavily thickened, and then take off heat. Transfer to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and start paddling on low speed, incorporating the ricotta cheese and rosewater into the mixer. Once incorporated, whip at high speed for 5 minutes. Fold in the mozzarella. Transfer to silicone half-inch dome molds and freeze for 1 hour.

For assembly:
Canola or vegetable oil
regular dough
oil dough
filling

To start, take a piece of your regular dough and roll out as flat as possible. Place a piece of your oil dough onto the rolled out dough, and crimp it to seal it inside of your regular dough. Roll out this dough ball, and fold inwards twice(brochure style). Repeat this step again. Take your frozen filling and place onto the dough. Crimp it to seal and roll to form a smooth ball around the filling. Score the dough deeply on the smooth side, forming an 8-sided asterisk on that side. Repeat with the rest of your dough and filling. Bring oil up to 300 degrees F. Fry the pastries one at a time, basting them with oil on the seam side to allow the pastries to bloom and the petals to separate. Drain on a paper towel to finish.

For the rose syrup:
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon rose water

Reduce together until the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool completely before using.

To garnish:
Crushed pistachios
Rose petals

Drizzle some syrup onto the bottom of the plate. Garnish with three pieces of lotus pastry, then your pistachios, and finally, your rose petals. Make a bed out of the crushed pistachios and quenelle the labneh onto the plate. Garnish with petals as well to finish.

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