Recipe: Atayef – Syrian Ricotta-Filled Dessert Pancakes

Atayef - Syrian Ricotta-Filled Dessert Pancakes
Atayef – Syrian Ricotta-Filled Dessert Pancakes

I took one look at the picture of these atayef in Poopa Dweck’s spectacular cookbook, Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews and knew imediately that I had to make them. I served them at a recent Men Cook event for dessert, after a meal that also included her red lentil soup (shurbat addes) and spiced yogurt cheese (labneh).

If the picture of the atayef didn’t get me, the description surely would have. First you make a thin pancake batter, then cook off small, crepe-thin circles, but only on one side. Then you fill the undercooked pancakes with ricotta cheese, seal them up, and deep fry them. Then you drench them in rose water-scented simple syrup, and dip the end in finely chopped pistachios. Over the top? I’d say.

The results were just as terrific as the description, and in spite of all the steps they aren’t really difficult to do. Allowing for a few that burst or otherwise turn out ugly, the recipe will make about 40 two-bite desserts, and the average person will probably want three of them, so you can easily serve 12. If you don’t need this many all at once, you might as well still make them and then freeze the rest before the deep frying step.

The syrup sub-recipe will also yield more than you need but will keep well in the fridge. You could use it to make interesting cocktails!

Shira (Rose Water Scented Syrup)
Vegetarian and vegan
Yields 2 cups (keeps well; could also use in cocktails)
From Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews 

  • 3 c. white sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. rose water or orange blossom water
  1. Boil the sugar, water and lemon juice for about 15 minutes. To tell if it is thick enough, grab out a teaspoon (carefully!) and let it cool a bit, then see if it is close to the consistency of honey.
  2. Allow to cool, then add the rose water or orange blossom water, and refrigerate. (The book has you add the rose water during the boiling, but I think it is better after).

Atayef – Syrian Ricotta-Filled Dessert Pancakes
To make vegan substitute egg replacer in the pancake and silken tofu fin the filling, or do a filling of chopped walnuts and apples)
Yields about 40, enough for at least 12 people
From Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews  

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 c. fresh ricotta (I prefer Colabro brand)
  • 1 c. cold shira syrup (above)
  • 1 c. shelled pistachios, chopped fine in a food processor
  1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg, then add water until you have a thin pancake batter, about like a crepe batter.
  2. Heat a griddle or large frying pan to medium and grease lightly.
  3. To make the pancakes, spread on 1 T. of batter and use the back of a spoon to quickly form it into a 3″ circle. Cook until bubbles just appear on one side. Do not flip, just remove it from the heat and place in a single layer on a baking sheet or work surface. Your goal is only to make the crepe firm enough to be filled, you don’t need it to be fully cooked. Do as many at a time as you can handle without overcooking. For me that was only about 4 at a time but they go quick.
  4. Fill each pancake with 1 teaspoon of ricotta. Do not overfill! Fold in half and seal with your fingertips. You can freeze them in a single layer at this point until you are ready to use them.
  5. For the final cooking, heat about 3/4 inch of oil in a smallish saucepan. Fry the atayef in small batches until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, douse with the shira syrup, and dip the tip in the pistachios. The shira should be very cold to prevent it from ruining the crispiness of the pancakes.
  6. Serve immediately, while still hot, and experience joy!
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Saturday, April 19th, 2008 in Desserts, Kid Friendly, Vegan or Modifiable.

16 Responses to “Recipe: Atayef – Syrian Ricotta-Filled Dessert Pancakes”

  1. Reply
    April 19, 2008 at 6:21 pm #

    your middle eastern creations are bringing back some fond memories of eating in little “mom & pop” cafes in the gulf and middle east! i wish i was there to taste everything you’re preparing. the pics are incredible, as always.

  2. Reply
    April 20, 2008 at 12:49 am #

    Hi Michael, these look fantastic. We only get atayef over in Egypt for Ramadan. We don’t get the ricotta version because there is rarely ricotta over here. Your’s look fantastic: yum, yum, yum! I’ve never tried to make them – it’s too dangerous a road to start walking down for those who are sweet-toothed – but you’re making me reconsider!

  3. Reply
    April 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm #

    Michael, these look wonderful!

  4. Reply
    April 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog! Those atayef you have are amazing! I heard that Aromas of Allepo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews is a really good book. I have it saved on my wishlist on Amazon but I havn’t gotten around to buying it yet.

  5. Reply
    April 30, 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    How much water should I add??

  6. Reply
    May 1, 2008 at 5:13 pm #

    to the batter??

  7. Reply
    May 1, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    because oddly enough i have the book, and i was about the make the attayef but it didnt say how much water to add to the pancake batter so im like o.k, moving on and just forgot about it, unil i ran into this page and i got blown away since its the same book and all..

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 6, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    Yep, the recipe in the book blatantly omits the water measurement! I just added enough until it was thin like a crepe batter, distinctly thinner than an American pancake batter. Sorry I didn’t measure it, but I think you can suss it out pretty easily.

  9. Reply
    July 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm #

    You had me at deep-fried. Looks marvelous. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Reply
    July 4, 2008 at 9:53 pm #

    Love these! They looks so delicious!

  11. Reply
    November 27, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    any one knows how to make haresei the syrian way

  12. Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    i had some ricotta left over from something else i made to ive just made these – joy is a complete understatement. these are absolutely fantastic, ive just eaten 10, thank you

  13. Reply
    December 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Hey! we have the same book, from Poopa Dweck, Im not using any other, this is the best, and also with part, where is written about the traditions, perfect! My man is from Aleppo, im europian, so with this book Im learning to cook like his mom used to! Now he finally wants to marry me 😀
    Ataiyef Im gonna make today, for the Hannukah. We are already drooling here 🙂 there is an arabic restaurant close from here, where they make great ataiyef, but I’d like to make them home 🙂

  14. Reply
    May 3, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    I tried making these few days ago, but I failed miserably! Now when I look at this recipe, it all makes sense…This is the best one I’ve seen so far!


  15. Reply
    February 18, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    What type of oil you fry with?

    • Reply
      February 18, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Any type of neutral vegetable oil will do.. just nothing with a strong flavor.

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