Fatayer jenbeh or cheese pies are popular arabic pastries. You find them in bakeries, school cafeterias, cafe and pastry shops.They make a great start of the day or a wonderful companion for the afternoon tea.These arabic cheese pastries are great portable snacks or impressive pastry appetizers if you make them small enough.
Fatayer el jebneh are typically boat-shaped but you can shape the dough any way you are comfortable with, I sometimes shape them the same way as the lebanese meat pies and other times I make them into triangles or circles, they are tasty in any shape so have fun with it. The cheese used for the stuffing is usually akkawi cheese mixed with a little kashkaval or cheddar cheese but you can use any salty cheese you like.You can add a variety of flavorings too cilantro, Nigella seeds or dried mint add another dimension of flavor but if you are a fan of plain cheese flavor feel free to use a plain cheese stuffing.
To make the perfect arabic cheese pastry you need a combination of a dough that will hold its shape after baking, good quality cheese and the flavoring you like.Today I am sharing my go to recipe for making these cheese pastries along with a step by step “how to” shape them.
To make the dough
3 cups flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder (see notes)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water (the water should be slightly warm to the touch not hot)
For the stuffing
equal amounts of grated akkawi cheese, kashkaval, sharp cheddar (about 100 g of each)
1 table spoon nigella seeds (optional)
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Proof the yeast by mixing it with the sugar and water in a cup, the yeast should foam and bubble if it doesn’t then it has gone bad and you need to replace it with new package.
In a bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder till combined
Add the oil and then rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips
Add the yogurt and the water yeast mixture and knead the dough untill it forms a smooth soft ball that doesn’t stick to your hands (a tip from a bakery owner I know, pick up the dough and slam it into the table 7-10 times during kneading. That will give your baked goods that fluffy interior)
Cover a bowl with a little olive oil,place your dough it and cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place untill it doubles in size (If you are short on time, heat your oven to 200 C and place the rack in the middle. Turn it off. Place a clean towel on the rack and place the bowl with your covered dough on the towel and leave it in the closed oven. It will double in size in 10-15 minutes)
Cut the dough into egg sized balls and cover them with a clean towel and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each dough ball into an elongated oval shape
Fold one edge of the dough over and press it with your finger tips to seal it
Fold over the opposite side and tuck the dough under the pastry boat
Do the same with the opposite side.
Once you’re done shaping the pastry gently press the top folds to adhere the dough to the cheese..this helps to prevent the pastry boats from opening up when you bake them
I usually brush them with some milk but you can egg wash them or brush them with some olive oil to give them a beautiful golden color when they bake
Allow them to rest for 10-15 minutes after shaping before baking them
Bake on the middle rack in an oven that you have preheated to 200 C until the bottom is golden brown then place under the broiler until the tops are golden brown.
If you are going to consume the fatayer soon after baking , keep the baking powder (It increases the fluffiness of the dough and allows it to rise better in the oven). If you plan on storing them or eating them over a couple of days omit the baking powder because the fatayer remain softer and more chewy when they are cooled and stored without the baking powder.(baking powder results in the baked goods hardening a little when they are cold)