Beyond baklava: There’s (13) more Arabic sweets in the desert!

Published March 24th, 2016 - 05:18 GMT

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The Middle East is no desert when it comes to desserts! From “Lady's Arms” to “Bread of the Palace”, there's more to our menu than baklava (or baklawa in Arabic). Our region famously serves up sugar-laden sweets soaked in syrups scented with exotic blossoms. Arab bakers mix semolina wheat grain, heavy cream, and nuts, with veritable dunes of sugar to concoct delectably gooey goodies, best washed down with strong bitter Turkish or Arabian coffee.

What’s not to love? (Especially if you’re a dentist!) Dive into our lineup of classic Arab desserts. Drop us a comment to tell us if we've missed out your favorite! Continue reading below »

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Kunafeh is how MENA does cheesecake! The heavy favorite is found most anywhere touched by the Ottomans. A semolina dough stuffed with sweet white cheese, it comes with texture name-tags by topping: ‘rough’ (crispy shreaded wheat) or ‘fine’ (semolina pastry), everyone has a preference! Soak it in 'attar', the blossom syrup, to seal the deal.
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Image 1 of 13:  1 / 13Kunafeh is how MENA does cheesecake! The heavy favorite is found most anywhere touched by the Ottomans. A semolina dough stuffed with sweet white cheese, it comes with texture name-tags by topping: ‘rough’ (crispy shreaded wheat) or ‘fine’ (semolina pastry), everyone has a preference! Soak it in "attar", the blossom syrup, to seal the deal.

Enlarge
Karabeej Halab – sometimes called “Aleppo cookies” after the place that cooked them up – is a pistachio (or walnut) puree-filled ma3moul served with natef, a foamy white meringue. Every piece is meticulously handcrafted, oval-shaped sweets baked to a gorgeous golden color, and these cookies get dunked in to the mallow-like dip.
Reduce

Image 2 of 13:  2 / 13Karabeej Halab – sometimes called “Aleppo cookies” after the place that cooked them up – is a pistachio (or walnut) puree-filled ma3moul served with natef, a foamy white meringue. Every piece is meticulously handcrafted, oval-shaped sweets baked to a gorgeous golden color, and these cookies get dunked in to the mallow-like dip.

Enlarge
Hareeseh recipes are as varied as the sweet’s names. Call it haresse, basboosa, or namoora. Make it with semolina, coconut, and oil – or go New Age and add fruit, yogurt or cornflakes. It’s an easy dessert sold by street vendors and in every bakery across the Middle East. Just don’t confuse it with harissa, the North African chili paste!
Reduce

Image 3 of 13:  3 / 13Hareeseh recipes are as varied as the sweet’s names. Call it haresse, basboosa, or namoora. Make it with semolina, coconut, and oil – or go New Age and add fruit, yogurt or cornflakes. It’s an easy dessert sold by street vendors and in every bakery across the Middle East. Just don’t confuse it with harissa, the North African chili paste!

Enlarge
Nablus lays claim to warbat, but the calorie-laden dish is popular across both sides of the Bank, mostly as a breakfast treat. It’s dished up during Ramadan for its fuel-providing power. Phyllo dough, cream, sugar, corn starch, butter, and buckets of syrup guarantee its deliciousness. Wash it down with strong Arabic coffee, and go find a gym.
Reduce

Image 4 of 13:  4 / 13Nablus lays claim to warbat, but the calorie-laden dish is popular across both sides of the Bank, mostly as a breakfast treat. It’s dished up during Ramadan for its fuel-providing power. Phyllo dough, cream, sugar, corn starch, butter, and buckets of syrup guarantee its deliciousness. Wash it down with strong Arabic coffee, and go find a gym.

Enlarge
The West Bank city of Nablus is determined to destroy your diet. Tuck into tamriyeh, paper thin pillows of fried dough stuffed with semolina pudding. Spritzed with blossom water and powdered sugar, it’s usually served hot. Some say its name comes from the Arab word “tamar” (to bury), as the tasty pudding is buried inside.
Reduce

Image 5 of 13:  5 / 13The West Bank city of Nablus is determined to destroy your diet. Tuck into tamriyeh, paper thin pillows of fried dough stuffed with semolina pudding. Spritzed with blossom water and powdered sugar, it’s usually served hot. Some say its name comes from the Arab word “tamar” (to bury), as the tasty pudding is buried inside.

Enlarge
Qatayef are sweet dumplings synonymous with Ramadan. Known as 'Arabic pancakes', they're filled with unsalted cheese or nuts, then fried or baked. MENA food pro Claudia Roden says it’s a medieval dish from the Islamic Golden Age, unchanged from the first millennium CE. Steeped in tradition, this doesn't keep Nutella from spreading its influence!
Reduce

Image 6 of 13:  6 / 13Qatayef are sweet dumplings synonymous with Ramadan. Known as "Arabic pancakes", they're filled with unsalted cheese or nuts, then fried or baked. MENA food pro Claudia Roden says it’s a medieval dish from the Islamic Golden Age, unchanged from the first millennium CE. Steeped in tradition, this doesn't keep Nutella from spreading its influence!

Enlarge
The Ottomans knew their way around snacks, inventing this granddaddy of the donut. Awameh is a traditional Levant sweet made of small fried dough balls that you dip in syrup. The name is Arabic for “floater” because the dough pops to the surface when being fried. One ball of this Damascene dessert has about 180 calories!
Reduce

Image 7 of 13:  7 / 13The Ottomans knew their way around snacks, inventing this granddaddy of the donut. Awameh is a traditional Levant sweet made of small fried dough balls that you dip in syrup. The name is Arabic for “floater” because the dough pops to the surface when being fried. One ball of this Damascene dessert has about 180 calories!

Enlarge
Halva is best compared to Western 'fudge', it's a family of dense, sweet, tahini-based confections popular across MENA and southeast Asia. It can be made from a flour-, seed-, or nut-butter base; sesame seed is most popular in the Middle East. Flavored with nuts or chocolate, halva is inexpensive and addictive.
Reduce

Image 8 of 13:  8 / 13Halva is best compared to Western "fudge", it's a family of dense, sweet, tahini-based confections popular across MENA and southeast Asia. It can be made from a flour-, seed-, or nut-butter base; sesame seed is most popular in the Middle East. Flavored with nuts or chocolate, halva is inexpensive and addictive.

Enlarge
Mafroukeh is a festive Lebanese cake that combines the usual suspects (semolina, cream, nuts and sugar)
with butter infused with sugar syrup, orange blossom, and rose water. Top it with eshta - a cream filling - or try using ricotta cheese. It is easy and quick to prepare, and a reliable crowd-pleaser as well diet-buster!
Reduce

Image 9 of 13:  9 / 13Mafroukeh is a festive Lebanese cake that combines the usual suspects (semolina, cream, nuts and sugar) with butter infused with sugar syrup, orange blossom, and rose water. Top it with eshta - a cream filling - or try using ricotta cheese. It is easy and quick to prepare, and a reliable crowd-pleaser as well diet-buster!

Enlarge
Turkish Delight - or raha - looms large in Middle Eastern childhood memories, and an offshoot - the Turkish Delight 'sandwich' is a recipe so simple a child could make. Take a piece of the subtly-flavored candy (a precursor to Gummy Bears!), flatten it between two biscuits, and voila!  Call yourself a dessert chef!
Reduce

Image 10 of 13:  10 / 13Turkish Delight - or raha - looms large in Middle Eastern childhood memories, and an offshoot - the Turkish Delight "sandwich" is a recipe so simple a child could make. Take a piece of the subtly-flavored candy (a precursor to Gummy Bears!), flatten it between two biscuits, and voila! Call yourself a dessert chef!

Enlarge
3esh al saraya means 'bread of the palace', an Egyptian dish Marie Antoinette could love! Its three-ingredient recipe lets almost everyone 'eat cake' - although it's closer to a bread pudding. Cut the crusts off white bread, soak the bread in honey, fry it, chill it, and top it with whipped cream. Nut topping optional.
Reduce

Image 11 of 13:  11 / 133esh al saraya means "bread of the palace", an Egyptian dish Marie Antoinette could love! Its three-ingredient recipe lets almost everyone "eat cake" - although it's closer to a bread pudding. Cut the crusts off white bread, soak the bread in honey, fry it, chill it, and top it with whipped cream. Nut topping optional.

Enlarge
The people's choice indulgence, bar Kunafeh, Halawet el Jibn are cigar-like rolls of a sweet cheese dough stuffed with clotted cream. A bit of a flavor snooze 'til you cut them into bite-size pieces and top with pistachios and a dollop of rose petal jam. Drizzle on a fragrant syrup, and thank Lebanon and Syria for this exotic medley of yummy!
Reduce

Image 12 of 13:  12 / 13The people's choice indulgence, bar Kunafeh, Halawet el Jibn are cigar-like rolls of a sweet cheese dough stuffed with clotted cream. A bit of a flavor snooze 'til you cut them into bite-size pieces and top with pistachios and a dollop of rose petal jam. Drizzle on a fragrant syrup, and thank Lebanon and Syria for this exotic medley of yummy!

Enlarge
Save the dish with the sweetest name for last! Znoud el Sett is a Lebanese classic, a sugary spring roll that's stuffed with anything from clotted cream (kachta) to a soaked-bread filling (ashta). Fry ‘em, bake ‘em, but always drench ‘em in syrup. Its name means “lady’s arms”, for the “bat wings” you'll grow from eating too many!
Reduce

Image 13 of 13:  13 / 13Save the dish with the sweetest name for last! Znoud el Sett is a Lebanese classic, a sugary spring roll that's stuffed with anything from clotted cream (kachta) to a soaked-bread filling (ashta). Fry ‘em, bake ‘em, but always drench ‘em in syrup. Its name means “lady’s arms”, for the “bat wings” you'll grow from eating too many!

Enlarge

1

Kunafeh is how MENA does cheesecake! The heavy favorite is found most anywhere touched by the Ottomans. A semolina dough stuffed with sweet white cheese, it comes with texture name-tags by topping: ‘rough’ (crispy shreaded wheat) or ‘fine’ (semolina pastry), everyone has a preference! Soak it in 'attar', the blossom syrup, to seal the deal.

Image 1 of 13Kunafeh is how MENA does cheesecake! The heavy favorite is found most anywhere touched by the Ottomans. A semolina dough stuffed with sweet white cheese, it comes with texture name-tags by topping: ‘rough’ (crispy shreaded wheat) or ‘fine’ (semolina pastry), everyone has a preference! Soak it in "attar", the blossom syrup, to seal the deal.

2

Karabeej Halab – sometimes called “Aleppo cookies” after the place that cooked them up – is a pistachio (or walnut) puree-filled ma3moul served with natef, a foamy white meringue. Every piece is meticulously handcrafted, oval-shaped sweets baked to a gorgeous golden color, and these cookies get dunked in to the mallow-like dip.

Image 2 of 13Karabeej Halab – sometimes called “Aleppo cookies” after the place that cooked them up – is a pistachio (or walnut) puree-filled ma3moul served with natef, a foamy white meringue. Every piece is meticulously handcrafted, oval-shaped sweets baked to a gorgeous golden color, and these cookies get dunked in to the mallow-like dip.

3

Hareeseh recipes are as varied as the sweet’s names. Call it haresse, basboosa, or namoora. Make it with semolina, coconut, and oil – or go New Age and add fruit, yogurt or cornflakes. It’s an easy dessert sold by street vendors and in every bakery across the Middle East. Just don’t confuse it with harissa, the North African chili paste!

Image 3 of 13Hareeseh recipes are as varied as the sweet’s names. Call it haresse, basboosa, or namoora. Make it with semolina, coconut, and oil – or go New Age and add fruit, yogurt or cornflakes. It’s an easy dessert sold by street vendors and in every bakery across the Middle East. Just don’t confuse it with harissa, the North African chili paste!

4

Nablus lays claim to warbat, but the calorie-laden dish is popular across both sides of the Bank, mostly as a breakfast treat. It’s dished up during Ramadan for its fuel-providing power. Phyllo dough, cream, sugar, corn starch, butter, and buckets of syrup guarantee its deliciousness. Wash it down with strong Arabic coffee, and go find a gym.

Image 4 of 13Nablus lays claim to warbat, but the calorie-laden dish is popular across both sides of the Bank, mostly as a breakfast treat. It’s dished up during Ramadan for its fuel-providing power. Phyllo dough, cream, sugar, corn starch, butter, and buckets of syrup guarantee its deliciousness. Wash it down with strong Arabic coffee, and go find a gym.

5

The West Bank city of Nablus is determined to destroy your diet. Tuck into tamriyeh, paper thin pillows of fried dough stuffed with semolina pudding. Spritzed with blossom water and powdered sugar, it’s usually served hot. Some say its name comes from the Arab word “tamar” (to bury), as the tasty pudding is buried inside.

Image 5 of 13The West Bank city of Nablus is determined to destroy your diet. Tuck into tamriyeh, paper thin pillows of fried dough stuffed with semolina pudding. Spritzed with blossom water and powdered sugar, it’s usually served hot. Some say its name comes from the Arab word “tamar” (to bury), as the tasty pudding is buried inside.

6

Qatayef are sweet dumplings synonymous with Ramadan. Known as 'Arabic pancakes', they're filled with unsalted cheese or nuts, then fried or baked. MENA food pro Claudia Roden says it’s a medieval dish from the Islamic Golden Age, unchanged from the first millennium CE. Steeped in tradition, this doesn't keep Nutella from spreading its influence!

Image 6 of 13Qatayef are sweet dumplings synonymous with Ramadan. Known as "Arabic pancakes", they're filled with unsalted cheese or nuts, then fried or baked. MENA food pro Claudia Roden says it’s a medieval dish from the Islamic Golden Age, unchanged from the first millennium CE. Steeped in tradition, this doesn't keep Nutella from spreading its influence!

7

The Ottomans knew their way around snacks, inventing this granddaddy of the donut. Awameh is a traditional Levant sweet made of small fried dough balls that you dip in syrup. The name is Arabic for “floater” because the dough pops to the surface when being fried. One ball of this Damascene dessert has about 180 calories!

Image 7 of 13The Ottomans knew their way around snacks, inventing this granddaddy of the donut. Awameh is a traditional Levant sweet made of small fried dough balls that you dip in syrup. The name is Arabic for “floater” because the dough pops to the surface when being fried. One ball of this Damascene dessert has about 180 calories!

8

Halva is best compared to Western 'fudge', it's a family of dense, sweet, tahini-based confections popular across MENA and southeast Asia. It can be made from a flour-, seed-, or nut-butter base; sesame seed is most popular in the Middle East. Flavored with nuts or chocolate, halva is inexpensive and addictive.

Image 8 of 13Halva is best compared to Western "fudge", it's a family of dense, sweet, tahini-based confections popular across MENA and southeast Asia. It can be made from a flour-, seed-, or nut-butter base; sesame seed is most popular in the Middle East. Flavored with nuts or chocolate, halva is inexpensive and addictive.

9

Mafroukeh is a festive Lebanese cake that combines the usual suspects (semolina, cream, nuts and sugar)
with butter infused with sugar syrup, orange blossom, and rose water. Top it with eshta - a cream filling - or try using ricotta cheese. It is easy and quick to prepare, and a reliable crowd-pleaser as well diet-buster!

Image 9 of 13Mafroukeh is a festive Lebanese cake that combines the usual suspects (semolina, cream, nuts and sugar) with butter infused with sugar syrup, orange blossom, and rose water. Top it with eshta - a cream filling - or try using ricotta cheese. It is easy and quick to prepare, and a reliable crowd-pleaser as well diet-buster!

10

Turkish Delight - or raha - looms large in Middle Eastern childhood memories, and an offshoot - the Turkish Delight 'sandwich' is a recipe so simple a child could make. Take a piece of the subtly-flavored candy (a precursor to Gummy Bears!), flatten it between two biscuits, and voila!  Call yourself a dessert chef!

Image 10 of 13Turkish Delight - or raha - looms large in Middle Eastern childhood memories, and an offshoot - the Turkish Delight "sandwich" is a recipe so simple a child could make. Take a piece of the subtly-flavored candy (a precursor to Gummy Bears!), flatten it between two biscuits, and voila! Call yourself a dessert chef!

11

3esh al saraya means 'bread of the palace', an Egyptian dish Marie Antoinette could love! Its three-ingredient recipe lets almost everyone 'eat cake' - although it's closer to a bread pudding. Cut the crusts off white bread, soak the bread in honey, fry it, chill it, and top it with whipped cream. Nut topping optional.

Image 11 of 133esh al saraya means "bread of the palace", an Egyptian dish Marie Antoinette could love! Its three-ingredient recipe lets almost everyone "eat cake" - although it's closer to a bread pudding. Cut the crusts off white bread, soak the bread in honey, fry it, chill it, and top it with whipped cream. Nut topping optional.

12

The people's choice indulgence, bar Kunafeh, Halawet el Jibn are cigar-like rolls of a sweet cheese dough stuffed with clotted cream. A bit of a flavor snooze 'til you cut them into bite-size pieces and top with pistachios and a dollop of rose petal jam. Drizzle on a fragrant syrup, and thank Lebanon and Syria for this exotic medley of yummy!

Image 12 of 13The people's choice indulgence, bar Kunafeh, Halawet el Jibn are cigar-like rolls of a sweet cheese dough stuffed with clotted cream. A bit of a flavor snooze 'til you cut them into bite-size pieces and top with pistachios and a dollop of rose petal jam. Drizzle on a fragrant syrup, and thank Lebanon and Syria for this exotic medley of yummy!

13

Save the dish with the sweetest name for last! Znoud el Sett is a Lebanese classic, a sugary spring roll that's stuffed with anything from clotted cream (kachta) to a soaked-bread filling (ashta). Fry ‘em, bake ‘em, but always drench ‘em in syrup. Its name means “lady’s arms”, for the “bat wings” you'll grow from eating too many!

Image 13 of 13Save the dish with the sweetest name for last! Znoud el Sett is a Lebanese classic, a sugary spring roll that's stuffed with anything from clotted cream (kachta) to a soaked-bread filling (ashta). Fry ‘em, bake ‘em, but always drench ‘em in syrup. Its name means “lady’s arms”, for the “bat wings” you'll grow from eating too many!

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