Windy City Baker Around the World: Lebanon

Sara and Nabil in Byblos, Lebanon - Windy City Baker

Last year, I got the amazing opportunity to travel to Lebanon to go to my brother-in-law’s wedding.  I was delighted by how beautiful the country was. 

Lebanon has a unique geography with beautiful beaches, mountains that are covered in ancient Cedar groves, and an incredible cave system.  It also has a ton of incredible Greek and Roman ruins. I had an amazing time visiting this country!  

Packaged baklava from Hallab, a pastry shop in Lebanon that has been open since 1881.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly if you know me), my favorite experience while I was there was going to Hallab, a Lebanese pastry shop that has been open since 1881.  I had been looking forward to going to this bakery since the first time I tried their pre-packaged baklava (courtesy of my husband when we first started dating).  It literally changed my life and I’m not exaggerating.  The pastry was flaky and buttery with a well-proportioned nut later, and a perfect amount of sweet syrup in a bite-sized morsel.  I didn’t actually think that their pastries could be better in person, but I was soooo wrong. They were mind blowing when fresh. 

Hallab Logo - Pastry Shop in Lebanon

I went to Hallab multiple times while I was in Lebanon on my 2-week vacation and tried as many of their pastries as I could.  My favorites included1:

Hallab Baklava - Pastry shop in Lebanon
From left to right: Pistachio Baklava, Cashew Basklava, Baklava Fingers
  • Cashew and pistachio baklava
    • The bite-sized baklava consist of thin layers of flaky phyllo dough, butter, and nuts.  These were one of the pastries that I’d tried and loved prior to going to Lebanon, but they were even better in person.
  • Baklava fingers
    • The baklava fingers have similar ingredients as the normal baklava but are rolled into a log/finger shape.  I like the ones filled with pine nuts.  So good!! I ordered these on multiple occasions. 
Baklava with Kashta Ice Cream - Baklava Ice Cream Sandwich from Hallab, a pastry shop in Lebanon
  • Baklava with kashta ice cream
    • The bakery cut a piece of baklava in half and filled it with a layer of kashta ice cream.  This was the equivalent to a baklava ice cream sandwich.  My husband and I decided that we definitely needed to try and make this at home.  Don’t be surprised if you see a blog post about this at some point in the future. The kashta ice cream tastes very similarly to milk flavored ice cream.  It was a lovely and refreshing treat in the middle of summer.  I also ate these multiple times.  Can you tell the ones that I liked the most? 
Pistachio Baklava Recipe - Windy City Baker

Check out Windy City Baker’s

homemade Pistachio Baklava Recipe here!

Znoud El Sit
  • These are similar to mini sweet egg rolls. The phyllo dough layers are rolled with kashta inside. Kashta is essentially a Middle Eastern clotted cream. The roll is then deep fried and covered in flavored simple syrup. These were really good. I ate them multiple times while I was in Lebanon.
  • I could not find a picture of this when I was looking back through my Lebanon photos. I must have been too busy eating it to snap a picture. Sorry about that!
Mafroukeh Pistachios
Mafroukeh with pistachios, mafroukeh, and baklava with kashta ice cream
The green one on top is the mafroukeh with pistachios and the bottom left is normal mafroukeh.
  • This one is tricky for me to describe.  It’s kind of like a pistachio semolina cake that has a thick layer of kashta in the middle and is covered in simple syrup.  I had never eaten like it before, but it was a light dessert. I liked it a lot.
Knafeh with cheese
Knafeh with cheese from Hallab, a pastry shop in Lebanon
  • This pastry has a top and bottom of semolina flour dough crust and it is filled with soft and stretchy cheese.  Before eating, you can pour simple syrup over the top to add sweetness to the dish.  Knafeh is really good when it’s warm because the cheese gets soft and melted (similar to mozzarella).  They make two versions, one filled with kashta (i.e., Middle Eastern clotted cream) and one filled with cheese.  My husband and I both prefer the one filled with cheese.

I enjoyed Hallab’s pastries so much that I would go back to Lebanon just to eat there again.  Luckily, Hallab ships their products to the United States so I can pay to have their baklava sent to me.  The only downside, is that none of the pastries with cream can be shipped outside of Lebanon because the cream wouldn’t be good by the time it reached the US.  If you’re interested in trying their sweets without traveling to Lebanon, you can visit their website here

Have you ever been to Lebanon or another country in the middle east? What is your favorite middle eastern dessert? Leave me a comment below!

I will likely be trying to make many of these recipes at home, so please subscribe to the newsletter to be notified when new recipes are published!

  1. Please note that spellings for these pastries vary based on the region in which they are made.  I took my spellings from the Hallab website.   

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