Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Qater: Middle Eastern Simple Syrup قطر

Qater is the sweetener of Middle Eastern desserts. Most of Middle eastern desserts such as Baklawa/Baklava, Kunefe, Namoora, Halawet el Jibn, Qatayef etc...dont contain any sugar, but are rather bathed in this sweet and aromatic thick liquid. Simple Syrup is basically sugar and water thickened over heat flavored with natural Middle Eastern aromas such as orange blossom water, rose water, cinnamon and cardamom. It is also served on the side of the dessert in case some prefer their dessert on the extra sweet side.

What matters in making such dessert is the texture of the Qater and that most of the Qater should be absorbed by the dessert in question, and for this to happen, you should respect Two cardinal rules:

Hot syrup over cold/room temperature dessert and cold/room temperature syrup over hot dessert. For example, when the baklawa/baklava is finished cooking in the oven, it is dowsed with cold/room temperature syrup until the syrup is absorbed from within the cuts in the Baklawa. The difference in temperature allows the perfect absorption of the syrup. I am sure there is a perfectly sound scientific reasoning behind it, but at this point, this cardinal rule is coming from my personal experience as a home cook.

Lemon juice is needed to prevent the crystallization of sugar in the syrup. It is also added once the syrup has thickened and off the heat. All that you need is few drops of lemon juice, around 1/2 teaspoon to prevent the crystallization of sugar.

My Qater is on the dark side because I use organic unrefined cane sugar which is better for you. If you prefer the lighter color then use the regular refined sugar. 


2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of orange blossom water


In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve sugar in water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice to avoid crystallization of sugar. Add orange blossom and mix.

You can flavor your simple syrup by adding cinnamon stick, or/and crushed cardamom pods, and/or mastic to the syrup while the qater is still cooking on heat and or rose water off the heat.

Store in air tight container for future use or in the fridge for extended use.


  1. When you pour cold syrup on hot pastry, you shrink the air in the pockets and the lower pressure draws in the syrup. When you pour hot syrup on cold pastry the hot syrup heats up the air (as evidenced by little bubbles). The whole thing then cools and just like before the cooling air pockets are at lower pressure drawing in the syrup. No temperature difference, no air-pressure driven syrup-adsorption.

  2. Sucrose, when heated, breaks down into fructose and glucose, each of which are more soluble than sucrose. Just think of how long corn syrup can sit in the cupboard without crystallizing. Adding a little acid like lemon-juice retards the recombination of the fructose and glucose into sucrose as the solution cools down, retarding the precipitation and crystallization of the sucrose. #PhysicistChef

    1. There you go, the scientific explanation! Thanks Leo!