Strawberry Knafe tarts

strawberry kunafeh tarts

Chef in disguise turned two last week :) it has been a wonderful journey! Fun, challenging, full of surprises, more pleasant than not. Sure it has been time consuming and it has turned into a mini (or major) obsession (depending on who you ask!)  but above all, the things I learned, the places I have seen through my blogger friends’ eyes, the experiences shared, the people I “met” have made my life richer for sure and for that I am deeply grateful.

Unlike my one year of blogging celebration post, this time around I don’t have any words of wisdom, numbers and stats or advice to share. Just a heart-felt thank you to every one of you for sharing the journey with me. Without your visits, comments,and emails I am sure I would not have made it this far.

Strawberry tarts

I wanted to share a sweet recipe to celebrate the occasion but deciding what to share was not easy. I wanted it to be something easy yet interesting and I wanted it to have a middle eastern twist.

How about using a middle eastern ingredient and incorporating it into one of my favorite desserts?

I have shared my recipe for knafe  ( one of the popular desserts in the levant) and back then I told you that the knafe dough is really versatile and can be used in many recipes, both savory and sweet. Your creativity and imagination are the only limitation.

Enter knafe cups

I know many people have problems with pie crusts. I was one of them! Knafe cups are a great way around making a pie crust. They are quicker, easier, they taste great and the texture is a interesting plus.These knafe cups are fun edible containers that you  can fill with anything you want, a fruit salad, pudding or dip along side some sliced fruit. Skip the sugar and you can make a savoury version.

The rest of the dessert is a no brainer. My kids have a love affair with pastry cream and I have to admit, I do too. It is so easy to eat this stuff by the spoonful and forget about making the desert. It is velvety and smooth, rich without being overly so. The perfect complement to any dessert.

Last but definitely not least, the strawberries. Luscious, red and arranged in a flower petal pattern, they are the perfect way to fight the end of winter gloom.

strawberry tarts

Strawberry knafe tarts

To make the knafe cups

Makes 8 mini tarts

1/2 kg vermicelli pastry (knafe dough or shredded Phylo dough)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter , melted

1/2 cup of sugar

The night before you plan to make Knafeh, take the Phylo dough out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost overnight.

The next day start shredding the dough or pastry in a bowl.

Drizzle it with the melted butter and sprinkle the powdered sugar and toss the Phylo dough until it completely absorbs the butter.


Place 1/4 cup of dough (or the amount needed to fill your tartlet pans) and press it into the sides and the bottom of the pan with your finger tips. Make sure you press it well or else your knafe cups won’t hold shape (they will be crumbly)

knafe cups @chef in disguise

Bake in a preheated oven (200 C) on the lowest rack of the oven till the edges are golden brown (10-15 minutes) then turn on the broiler only for a couple of minutes  to get the tops golden brown

Allow the knafeh  cups to cool for 15 minutes before removing them from the pan and placing them on a wire rack to continue cooling.

strawberry tart@ chef in disguise`

Pastry Cream / Crème Pâtissière:


2 and 1/2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoon corn flour/cornstarch

2 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

4 large egg yolks

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla


Whisk the eggs and egg yolks

Add the cornstarch and the flour and whisk untill combined

Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.

Add the hot milk little by little to the egg mixture while whisking (You want to slowly heat the egg mixture). Make sure you  stir constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

Place the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat while whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) till the mixture starts to thicken.

Continue to whisk till the mix bubbles

Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother. (N.B. If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.)

Add the vanilla and whisk until fully incorporated.

If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming.

Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken. (you need the over night chilling for the cream to set completely, if you use it sooner it will be somewhat runny)

Assembling the tarts

Fill the tarts with pastry cream, you can pipe the pastry cream if you like.

Slice the strawberries  and arrange them on top of your tarts.

I usually assemble these tarts right before serving, that way the crust remains crunchy and the fruit fresh and shiny

knafe strawberry tarts

If you are tight on time and have to prepare the tarts ahead of time, you can brush the strawberry slices with gelatine (1 tablespoon gelatine dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water then allowed to cool). This will make the strawberries look shiny and keep them from wilting too quickly

Strawberry tarts

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  1. They look great and yummy… congrats!!!


    Thrilled to have found your spot, intend to stay for as long as you want to blog… ;-)

    I kept smiling more and more as I read your post – first you make it sound as though you will post something REAL simple, but then… WOW! As usual, you raise the bar way up to the sky…

    beautiful job, I doubt I could ever pull something so elegant and gorgeous

  3. Oh, Sawsan, this is such a lovely and inspired recipe. I adore knafe, but don’t have access to it. Inspired after a recent trip to Turkey, where I ate it often (and in the Middle East years ago), I tried to make it myself by cutting phylo. Needless to say, it didn’t work very well. Couldn’t get it fine enough. I love this modern take on it and if I ever can buy it here in Mexico, you can bet I’ll be making these!

  4. Happy Birthday to your blog! My goodness Sawsan, your creativity knows no bounds! I love what you’ve done with the knafe cups! It’s such a great idea! Anddddd it looks like it’s fate because our city has a Strawberry Festival every summer, and I just found out that they have a desert competition. This looks like the perfect way to enter! I’m pinning this for when the festival comes around! :)

  5. Mabruk Sawsan! 2 years of sharing such beautiful food & photos that lift the spirits & feed our hearts (& are so yummy for the tummy, too : ) i make your pumpkin (adapted to sweet potato) frittata often & now here is another fabulous recipe to try! Shukran jazeelan!!

    grace, peace & congratulations – Virginia : )

  6. Happy birthday to one of my favourite blogs and bloggers!! Wishing you even greater success in the years to come Sawsan!! :)) And you know how much I love strawberries.. so these tarts are calling out to me in a very special way! If only I could come over right now.. and have some..

  7. Oh my…simply lovely.

  8. Congratulations on your second anniversary Sawsan. I too am so grateful for having found you, such a valued friend, commentor and fellow blogger. I have been inspired by many a recipes from your blog and look forward to being inspired more in the coming years. It sure does make life interesting reading about things from around the world, so close and yet so far away. Happy Anniversary, my friend.
    I have been searching high and low for this lovely pastry but have yet to find it. I had no idea you could shred it even further and form it into such a beautiful crust and I bet the texture against the smooth and creamy pastry cream is a delight. Strawberries this time of year are just awful here, they hardly have any taste at all, but I can do this with frozen blueberries! Now I really need to find this pastry!

  9. Anonymous

     /  February 26, 2013

    I’ve never seen a pastry cream combining cornstarch and flour but I’d like to give it a try … maybe inside my Boston cream pie or cream puffs though the knafe tart bases look so pretty with their strawberry toppings.

  10. Congrats on your second anniversary! When I started about a year ago I could never have imagined how much time I would invest in my blog. But it is rewarding as I am inspired by other bloggers like you! Looks like a great recipe and always I love your photos!

  11. I love knafe but I have never thought it could be used to make tarts!! Those strawberry tarts are beautiful!!

  12. Wow, happy second birthday Sawsan! Very glad your blog turned into a personal obsession – your attention-to-detail is what makes Chef in Disguise one of my all-time favourite blogs. LOVE your Middle Eastern twist on strawberry tarts – great idea to use knafe pastry. YUM! They look gorgeous.

  13. Happy 2nd birthday! Those tart shells are very clever and what a beautiful dish – they look like flowers.

  14. Happy 2 year Anniversary! Great job Sawsan, it’s always a pleasure reading your stories, your recipes and enjoying your photos. I can see the passion in what you do. Love these little kanafe tarts! I too am a sucker for pastry cream and would love to try these.

    Nazneen xx

  15. Your tarts are so pretty, Sawson. I love how you decorated with the strawberries. And congratulations on your 2nd anniversary. You’ve done very well in the two years you’ve been blogging xx

  16. Very pretty! I bet they taste as good as they look too! Pastry cream must be similar to custard …. I’ll try it one day. Congratulations on your blog’s second birthday, Sawsan.:D

  17. That looks fantastic

  18. Beautiful tarts, I love using fresh berries as a topping!

  19. Happy second blog anniversary, Sawsan. COngratulations on the beautiful blog and I am so glad to have found it.

    The knafe cups look gorgeous. My family loves knafe and I must give these a try.

  20. You are a true artist. This put a smile on my face. Love it totally!

  21. Happy BD to you and your blog. I hope I will be around when it is 20,30,50 and 100 years old :). I hope the years ahead will carry all success and joy you hope for and of course more mouth watering recipes for us hahaha. I absolutely like this recipe it is the first time I see konafa without simple syrup !!! I bet it is delicious and healthy too.
    BTW: I find it easier and quicker to shred konafa while it is still frozen, that’s a tip I got from my mom.

  22. Lovely, lovely, lovely!!! Like blossoms on the table.

  23. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who can eat pastry cream by the spoonful! The strawberry tarts look wonderful – so pretty with the flower petal arrangement. Happy 2nd blogiversary!

  24. Happy anniversary, Sawsan! These tarts are the perfect way to mark the occasion. They look like flowers on your table top, flowers made out of strawberries! Well done. I can’t wait to see what you’ll share with us in the next 2 years.

  25. Happy Anniversary! You’re getting better all the time, and you’re a delight to read. Great way to celebrate with these tarts – they look wonderful! Thanks.

  26. The way you present these tarts makes then bloom with flavour my friend :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  27. mjskit

     /  February 28, 2013

    Congratulations for your two years of blogging! Your blog is so professional, like you baking and cooking, that it’s shocking that it’s only been two years! What a way to celebrate! I’ll definitely accept one of this tarts! They are so pretty and I know would be delicious with the crispy crust, creamy custard and fresh strawberries. Talk about a mouth full of flavor!

  28. Happy Blogaversary! Fantastic looking tarts!

  29. Happy Annoversary to you Sawsan! What a sweet coincidence that you and I shared our two year anniversaries the same week, and how sweetly coincidental that we each chose mini-tarts to mark the occasion! Yours are so beautifully celebratory! I love the idea of these two-or-three-biteful sort of desserts…something so special about them…and kids adore them! Happy anniversary Sawsan… You bring so much that’s beautiful and worthwhile to the table and WE are grateful to YOU! xxoo

  30. Congratulations Sawsan not for you only, but also for us. I like your blog, recipes, pictures, writing. Everything is perfect. Ma shaa allah.
    As all your recipes, this is another winner. I like how you’ve been creative and I think this crust is better than the pie crust, and me too have some issues to perfect one. The strawberry is another good idea.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  31. A huge Congratulations Sawsan. You are doing great job with your blog. Your blog is beautiful and very inspiring mashallah. WIshing you all succes <3 BTW I love your gorgeouse strawberry tarts and cant wait to try them . Love and prayers Misbah

  32. Congratulations Sawsan on your blog anniversary! It’s been a pleasure following you up to now and getting to know you a little better :). May you continue to lighten our days with your delightful recipes and writings :).

    These tarts look wonderful – they remind me a lot of the little strawberry tarts you can get in patisseries here… although better of course! Everything is better home-made, but I must say that I’m looking mostly at the pastry dough. That is so cool… I can get phyllo pastry, but tell me – how can I shred it? I notice you have it shredded *really* finely… Maybe you can buy it that way already? Of course, I can just cut it with a knife, but I was wondering if you had a specific tip?

  33. Wow that looks really good, well done

  34. Happy Birthday! :) And I love the tarts – they look delicious and perfect!

  35. Rema

     /  May 3, 2014

    Is this custard for the treat safe for pregnant women?

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