Kataifi or Kadayif is shredded phyllo pastry. It looks a bit like your childhood’s Barbie doll, after you decided to shampoo and trim her long blond hair. I know it sounds silly but it does hold some truth.
I love this dessert. It’s light but creamy and sweet. Greek “Ekmek kataifi” is different to the Turkish version of this gorgeous, delicious dessert. In the Greek version, the syrup soaked “kataifi” is topped with pastry cream and topped with whipped cream. The Turkish version however, requires no kataifi pastry in the first place. Turkish “Ekmek” is a special kind of Turkish bread, soaked in syrup and then sandwiched with cream. “Ekmek” for the record, means “bread” in Turkish.
Personally I love both versions. The Greek version however is much easier to prepare as the only special ingredient you will need is the shredded phyllo pastry. With Middle Eastern cuisine’s popularity in Europe, you can now find “kataifi” pastry, frozen in major supermarkets around the world. You can even find it on Amazon.
What I particularly love about this dessert is the mastic flavoured pastry cream, very popular in Greek and Cypriot cuisine. If you can’t find mastic tears, use only vanilla and it will still be delicious.
It’s a lovely, luscious and aromatic dessert. Served straight out of the fridge, it’s the perfect ending to a rich meal.
For the syrup
- 2 ¼ cup sugar
- 1 ¾ cup water
- Half a lemon peel
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs honey
For the kataifi layer
- 300 grams frozen kataifi pastry, thawed
- 85 grams unsalted butter, melted
For the pastry cream
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup cream
- 8 Tbs corn flour
- 9 Tbs granulated sugar
- 3 mastic tears, crushed with one tsp sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs and 5 yolks
- 85 grams unsalted butter, cold
For the final layer
- 1 ¾ cup cream
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbs pistachios, ground
First make the syrup by combining all ingredients except the honey in a small sauce3pan. Put over high heat and as soon as mixture boils, remove from the heat and add the honey. Set aside to cool completely. You can keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Make the kataifi layer: Preheat oven to 160 C fan. Brush the base and sides of a 25 X 35 cm glass dish with some of the melted butter.
Pull the strands of the kataifi pastry to separate them. The better you do this, the better the dessert. Put “combed” kataifi pastry in a large bowl. Pour over half of the melted butter. Use your fingers to mix very well so that the strands of pastry are moistened. Spread kataifi in the buttered glass pan. Drizzle over the remaining melted butter. No need to mix again. Transfer in the preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes until golden. While it bakes the pastry with reduce in volume and will have a small gap around the sides of the pan.
As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven, drizzle over the cold syrup. The pastry will sizzle and while it absorbs the syrup it will expand in volume. Let the pastry stand for 30 minutes before proceeding with the cream.
Make the pastry cream: In a small bowl mix the corn flour with 1 cup milk. Stir until dissolved and set aside until needed. In a large pot put the remaining milk (4 cups), the cream and half the sugar over medium heat.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, put the eggs, yolks remaining sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until fluffy and pale. Add the corn flour mixture and mix again.
Once the milk just reaches the boiling point, remove from the heat. With the mixer on medium-low speed slowly drizzle all the hot milk in the egg mixture. Then, transfer mixture back in the pot over medium-low heat. Add the crushed mastic if using. Use a whisk to stir the cream constantly until it thickens. Once it begins to boil, stir vigorously for one minute. Remove cream from the heat and add the cold butter. Mix until butter melts and is thoroughly incorporated.
Pour hot cream on top of the kataifi pastry. Use a spatula or a spoon to distribute evenly. Cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap. The plastic should touch the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature. Then transfer to the fridge to chill.
Make the topping by whipping the cream with the icing sugar and the vanilla until soft peaks form. Remove plastic wrap from chilled pastry cream. Spread the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream. Sprinkle with the ground pistachios.
You can serve this right away but it gets even better if you let it chill over night. Cut in squares. Large squares.