Halawet el jebn

When I was a kid, before globalization and the internet (yes , that statement does make my kids giggle and makes me feel old) whenever we had a special occasion and  we wanted to  buy desserts for it, the options were simple: Baklava, muhalabia, layali lobnana, eish al saraya , awwameh or another item from a long list of traditional Arabic desserts. These desserts were sold by specialty stores who displayed them in the most tempting ways. Sure they sold the occasional cake and some cookies  but these were never that fancy nor tempting when compared to the extravaganza of Arabic delicacies on display.

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Image from Hebron times

My favorite dessert, as a child was these little white rolls you see in the next picture. They are , velvety and almost melt in your mouth. Delicately flavored with orange blossom water, the creaminess from the filling is beautifully balanced by the nuttiness of the pistachios. They are  little clouds of bless. There weren’t that many places that sold these little beauties, so whenever we passed by one of the stores that did, my dad would buy me some

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Now, when I look at those little rolls, they don’t only conjure up childhood memories but they also conjure up a heart ache. You see these little rolls are called halwet al jibn and they are a Syrian specialty. The best Halawet Jebn came from Syria or was made by Syrian stores in Amman.

What is happening in Syria and let’s face it, around the world is nothing short of heart breaking. You can’t listen to the news without hearing about a war,bombing or shootout.

I think that we, as a collective human community are going through a dark and sad time. It is so easy to get sucked up into a game of pointing fingers, labeling , accusing and defending but all that is not doing us any good.

Things are only going to get worse unless each and every one of us tries to take a stand and change something.I know it sounds like a silly solution, how can you or I change the world, what power do we have?

I firmly believe that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

It doesn’t have to be huge,  it just needs to be a small candle to banish some of this darkness. I light one, you light one and the next person lights one ..till this darkness is gone.

If you’ve read any of my past posts about Ramadan, you’d know that each Ramadan I set a number of goals for myself. This year, one of my goals for me and for the kids is to try to do a simple act of kindness every day. I have created  a list  with 30 acts of kindness for my family. You can find it below,in the form of a picture and a checklist.  Please feel free to share them, use them or print them if you like.

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This is my little candle for this Ramdan or at least one of a number of candles I am trying to light.

Do let me know in the comments, how are you dealing with all the sorrow and darkness that is taking over the world nowadays…

halawet-jebn-chef-in-disguise

On a final note, I am sorry about the super long rant but I have been staring at my screen for days trying to write this recipe post and every time I do, my news feed is flooded by the news of some horrible event or the other so I have decided to share my little candle with you , hoping that it will inspire you to light your own.

Now Back to the recipe for Halawet al Jebn

Halwet al jebn (which literally means the dessert made from cheese”jebn”)is a popular dessert in Syria and Lebanon. It is basically akkawi cheese incorporated into a semolina pudding then rolled into thin sheets that are later filled with clotted cream and dusted with pistachio.The result is a melt in your mouth sweet cloud. Because akkawi cheese is not readily available abroad, (and even if you do find it, it is sadly not the special type that melts easily) the same result can be achieved used mozzarella cheese

The recipe below is the result of MANY trials and errors.I can finally say that I have a recipe that yields halawet jebn that is exactly like the one I love and remember. I do hope that you’ll give it a go and if you do please let me know in the comments below

Halawet al jebn

200 grams mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup water

3 to 5 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it to be)

1/2 cup fine semolina

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

For the filling

  • Option  1

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons table cream (see notes)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

  • Option 2:

Homemade ashta

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup rice flour

1 tablespoon orange blossom water(optional)

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese

  • Option three:

You can use the same filling recipe I use for my knafeh

For spreading the dough

1/2 cup simple syrup

Directions

Prepare the filling:

For option 1 simply mix all the ingredients and stir to combine

For option 2:

Place the milk , sugar, cornstarch and rice flour in a pot, stir till the sugar dissolves completely

Cook over medium low heat while stirring continuously till the mix thickens (10-15 minutes)

Take it off the heat, stir in orange blossom water.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes

Add the ricotta cheese and stir.

To make Halawet al jibn

Place the water  and sugar  in a pot over medium heat . Bring to a boil

Add the shredded mozzarella and stir until the cheese dissolves completely (it will become one big stretchy mass)

Add the semolina slowly while stirring continuously then add the orange blossom water

Continue to stir vigorously until the mix comes together into a sticky dough that clears the sides of the pot.When you raise the spoon, the dough should fall off it like thick lava.Take off the heat

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Spread the half cup of simple syrup over a clean surface preferably a metal pan

Quickly, pour the cheese dough over the syrup covered surface and spread quickly (you should use your hands but if you can’t handle the heat, a syrup moistened rolling pin helps)

step 2.jpg

Spread the mix into a circle

Cut into quarters

Place a line of filling along the curved edge of each rectangle

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Roll the dough around the filling till  you get a tube of dough with the  filling in the center center.

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Repeat until the entire amount is filled, chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer

Cut the tubes into  1 inch segments, decorate with ground pistachio and drizzle with more simple syrup if desired

halawet-jebn-chef-in-disguise

Notes:

  • The simple syrup used in this recipe is prepared by mixing

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)

In a pot over medium heat mix the sugar, water and lemon juice and stil

When the mix comes to a boil take off the heat and add 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water

  • The table cream referred to in this post is the same as the one used in the madlouah recipeHalawet jebn a semolina and mozzarella dessert that tastes like little clouds of pure bless.jpg

Halawet al jebn

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

halawet-jebn-chef-in-disguise


Recipe author: Sawsan Abu Farha (Chef in disguise)

Ingredients

200 grams mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup water

3 to 5 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it to be)

1/2 cup fine semolina

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

For the filling

  • Option  1

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons table cream (see notes)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

  • Option 2:

Homemade ashta

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup rice flour

1 tablespoon orange blossom water(optional)

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese

  • Option 3:

You can use the same filling recipe I use for my knafeh

For spreading the dough

1/2 cup simple syrup

Directions

Prepare the filling:

For option 1 simply mix all the ingredients and stir to combine

For option 2:

Place the milk , sugar, cornstarch and rice flour in a pot, stir till the sugar dissolves completely

Cook over medium low heat while stirring continuously till the mix thickens (10-15 minutes)

Take it off the heat, stir in orange blossom water.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes

Add the ricotta cheese and stir.

To make Halawet al jibn

Place the water  and sugar  in a pot over medium heat . Bring to a boil

Add the shredded mozzarella and stir until the cheese dissolves completely (it will become one big stretchy mass)

Add the semolina slowly while stirring continuously then add the orange blossom water

Continue to stir vigorously until the mix comes together into a sticky dough that clears the sides of the pot.When you raise the spoon, the dough should fall off it like thick lava.Take off the heat

Spread the half cup of simple syrup over a clean surface preferably a metal pan

Quickly, pour the cheese dough over the syrup covered surface and spread quickly (you should use your hands but if you can’t handle the heat, a syrup moistened rolling pin helps)

Spread the mix into a circle

Cut into quarters

Place a line of filling along the curved edge of each rectangle

Roll the dough around the filling till  you get a tube of dough with the  filling in the center center.

Repeat until the entire amount is filled, chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer

Cut the tubes into  1 inch segments, decorate with ground pistachio and drizzle with more simple syrup if desired

halawet al jebn.jpg