My round-pan quest for kibbeh

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This is a story post about my kibbeh-making fun with various size pans. Click over to get the recipe for Lebanese Baked Kibbeh!

While I’ve been diving in whenever possible lately to the experiment of perfectly tinted buttercream, piped into perfectly defined swirls and roses and leaves, my mind gets to wandering over into the land of Lebanese cuisine (surprise), and which dishes are the more intricate, the more complicated—projects that would rank up there with learning to pipe a buttercream rose-adorned cake.

The ever-growing list:

Baklawa, of course. The diamonds, the fingers, the rosettes, the nests, the turbins. You know it’s all coming your way!!

Fatayar. The triangles are the more challenging, if only to keep the seams closed. But the square sfeha rank up there too.

Manakeesh. Okay, the flatbreads can be rustic. But I want perfect rounds and I want them all the same size and thickness.

Kibbeh. How’s your torpedo-shaped arras coming along? Dan reminds me that the key here is repetition. Practice makes perfect. If I’d just do a weekly 2-3 dozen arras, I’d have perfect torpedoes down cold. He’ll stand by and give me feedback, just as they emerge hot from the fryer….

Lebanese kibbeh, raw and baked, with condiments on the kitchen counter

For my kibbeh nayeh, I’m content where I am with the plating. We love to have more than one kibbeh spice-level option for our kibbeh dinners, so usually I make two platters of raw kibbeh. One, the easier flavor that is not at all spicy, like my mom’s. The kibbeh is mounded high and shaped into a circle or an oval, with a cross deeply imprinted in it and a bouquet of fresh mint in the center. Sometimes raw sweet onion slices are arranged around the kibbeh perimeter, sometimes offered in a bowl next to. And another platter for spicy hot, a flat platter, decorated with the tip of a spoon to make scale-like indentations. I see room for experimentation here, where the scales could take on various patterns. Ohhh fun.

There is another kibbeh shape that has captured my imagination and attention: the huge, round layered and baked sanieh—two layers of kibbeh top and bottom, filled with ground meat/onion/pine nuts and baked to deep golden brown—scored in diamonds that form a kind of geometric flower. This is not traditionally the baked kibbeh of Aboods, or Abowds, or of our local Woody’s Oasis Lebanese restaurant. The tradition there is for squares or rectangles. The reason seems obvious enough: an easier cut, and at least for a restaurant like that, easier to serve in large quantities from big sheet pans.

Kibbeh being layered in a big round pan
Lebanese kibbeh in a round pan, bottom layer smoothed with ice water

But that big round kibbeh! I needed to master it. The first challenge was to find a pan large enough to make the correct pattern. My round cake pans go up to 10 inches, which is not big enough to get the design right. I knew I could find huge round pans for this express purpose at the kitchenware shops in Dearborn, but what about all of you? I wanted an option that could be had swiftly, without a big online search and mail order.

When I sauntered unsuspecting down the cakey pan aisle at Meijer, I was floored to find a big, huge “deep dish pizza” pan, 14 inches and perfect for my sanieh. The sides are just a tad higher than the pans made for sanieh (of kibbeh or baklawa), but no matter.

As I carried the pan, too large for a bag, proudly out through the Meijer sliding doors, a gal walking out nearby must have seen the satisfaction on my face. “You’re going to love that pan,” she said. “It can be used for so many things, not just pizza.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Or, you can, but I didn’t! I’m hoping you can find the big 14-incher nearby too.

Filling spooned over the bottom layer of Lebanese kibbeh sahnieh
Flattening the top layer of Lebanese kibbeh sahnieh

The next, more serious challenge: the cutting of the kibbeh. I studied, and studied. I found making a map not only very helpful, but also satisfying.

The first time you go for it, trace your pan on a sheet of newspaper, then draw the cuts. When you do same with your knife on the kibbeh, score lightly to get it right.

The beauty of the top of a kibbeh sahnieh is it’s like a white board. You can just smooth away any scoring that didn’t work out, using a hand moistened with some ice water.

A newspaper with the design for round kibbeh sahnieh drawn on it

Also, there is a key refinement I’ve made to my kibbeh sahniehs in the last couple of years, and that is with the layers. Top and bottom, I’ve gone even thinner than I used to. We’re talking quarter inch or so. Then the filling spread in the middle is not as dense as I used to do. Overall this makes an even less meatloaf-y, more delicate kibbeh that still holds itself together. We love it.

Lebanese kibbeh sahnieh in a round pan with diamond cuts
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23 Comments

  1. Your recipes are the closest to my husband’s families that I’ve found. He was from
    Deirmimas Lebanon. I want to Thank-you for posting.

    1. So good to hear Linda! My father’s family is from Diermimas, so we share a similar way and I’m happy these recipes are true to your husband’s!

    1. I know–but of course you can add butter, which makes the kibbeh ever so luscious! I found this one with just the oil toward the end of baking to be really sumptuous also!

  2. Oh, Girl, so many, many childhood Sundays with Kibbee Sahnieh and Kibbee Nayeh and Potato Salad and Salata and Koosa and Waraq Inab and Khubz Arabi, and Fried Chicken. When did they have time to make it? Spread out gorgeously on the crocheted table cloth. Served immediately after Mass. They loved us so much. So much gratitude for the tender sweet memories that always tug at my heart. I continue to make Kibbee in my Sita’s 100 year old sahnieh.

    1. “They loved us so much”–ohhhhh, how happy they would be knowing you felt it and remember it all so dearly! Thank you Julie! I’m jealous of your sahnieh!

  3. I love kibbeh in the round pan! That’s the only way I’ve made it because there is something about the beauty of the pattern. A few things I did… I found a 14″ round pan with a false bottom (Fat Daddio’s) so I could easily put the entire dish on a large serving platter without messing it up. Also, I divided the meat for the top & bottom layers equally and then used a dough rolling system (Dough EZ) to get two even thickness layers of just the right diameter. It was very fast – especially for the top layer. I decorated each diamond piece with a pine nut and put mint in the middle. It was very pretty! Wish I could post a picture but it won’t let me here. Thank you for such wonderful recipes! I’ve had so much fun learning 🙂

  4. Hi Maureen
    I love this recipe, is there anyway I can stop the meat dough from shrinking significantly during cooking? What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Rebecca–my kibbeh shrinks too, always. Interesting question. I wonder if soaking the wheat longer would help. Or the opposite! Don’t soak the wheat at all. I will experiment and be back in touch if I hit on a solution!

  5. Thank you for your delicious recipes, especially this one for Kibbeh! Please give instructions on best way to pre-make this dish. I would like to make it the day before my party. Please advise 🙂

    1. Thank you Mary! Best way to pre-make the baked kibbeh: if freezing, wrap well and freeze the raw sahnieh for up to a month or so. Then bake from frozen at 350 degrees for about one hour (add butter on top at start of baking. If refrigerating, same–wrap well and it will hold for a day in the refrigerator before baking.

  6. I can’t believe I saw this today on google likes. I was thinking about emailing you. Can I make night before (with pecans) and cook the next day?
    Also, thought of you at Christmas. .Wanted to make your kaak but my my family is use to Hard kaak and was afraid to. Just made it without the yeast, etc. God bless you and your beautiful family.

    1. Jeff, how nice, thank you so much. You can make the kibbeh the night before, absolutely. Refrigerate and then bake according to the recipe. Are you using pecans in the meat filling? That’s new to me, I’m sure delicious. For the ka’ik, I have crunchy ka’ik biscuits as well, the recipe is here!

  7. Hi Maureen, I love your recipes! I made this recipe in the 14” pan. It was delicious! I had a problem with the bottom layer, it was very soft. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hmmm. I wonder if you added a little too much water to the kibbeh while mixing. Or the bottom layer was too thick and couldn’t dry out enough. Or excess oil from the filling seeped into the bottom layer and caused softness. Something along these lines?!

  8. Hello Maureen!
    I don’t have a round pan. I have a 9×13 would that work with the same ingredient measurements??
    Thanks!

  9. Baked kibbe shrinks because there not enough bulgar. Baked kibbe needs 1 1/2 C. To each lb. of meat. Nyee takes 3/4 -1 C.

  10. Hello Maureen. My daughter lives in the Lansing area. We love to cook Lebanese food as my mother’s family was from Lebanon. We would like to make your kibbee recipe. Where do you order meat for kibbee nayee locally? Where can we shop locally for spices and wheat, etc.?