Ekmek kataifi is an all-weather Greek dessert made with layers of kataifi dough baked until crispy and golden, bathed in lemon-scented syrup, topped with creamy thick custard and whipped cream and garnished with cinnamon and pistachios. This recipe, which never fails to impress, is very easy to follow, so you can recreate this traditional sweet delight from scratch.
The essence of this traditional recipe can be summarised in three key stages: preparing the syrupy kataifi base, preparing the creamy custard and preparing the airy whipped cream. Each stage will require using quite a few pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the mess!
Tips for the perfect creamy custard and whipped cream
The creamy custard is the most essential part for a traditional Greek ekmek kataifi recipe and probably the trickiest part too. To achieve the perfect texture, the key is to constantly whisk the milk while it is boiling so that it doesn’t get lumpy. The perfect custard for this recipe should be smooth and creamy. Prepare the custard over medium-low heat in order to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan, but be cautious not to undercook it. Give it a taste while stirring. It’s ready when you can’t taste the flour and its texture is thick.
To prepare the whipped cream for this traditional ekmek to perfection, chill a clean bowl along with the whisk attachment from a stand mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes and make sure your whipping cream is very cold. Be careful not to overbeat the cream or else it will become like butter.
It is very important to defrost the kataifi dough overnight. The secret is to let it defrost in the fridge and not at room temperature as this will prevent it from getting soaked with melting ice water. When it comes to buttering, don’t be thrifty! Drizzle with enough butter to help the dough bake and get a golden brown colour. Plus butter adds plenty of extra yummy flavour. Kataifi dough is actually shredded phyllo dough and dries out very quickly, so it’s best to keep exposure to the air at a minimum. Work the dough gently with your hands on a large surface or over the sink, so that you don’t end up with a kitchen filled with scattered shredded dough, drizzle with butter and straight to the oven!
The key for the most flavourful homemade ekmek kataifi is to use good quality fresh butter for buttering. The authentic Greek recipe calls for ‘galaktos’ butter made from cow’s milk, which really gives a unique flavour and amazing smell. The base for the ekmek kataifi should be crispy and moist at the same time. To achieve that it is important that you bake the dough very well until it’s crispy and nicely golden, or else it will become mushy when pouring the cream over it.
Ladling with the syrup is the final ‘gotcha’ to this dish. Make sure the syrup is lukewarm and your ekmek kataifi is cold. Always ladle the syrup over the cold pastry really slowly, enabling each ladle to be absorbed so that the syrup is spread out evenly through the dough.
And the final step: Even though it will be really difficult to follow, you should wait for the ekmek kataifi to cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
So go ahead, give this traditional recipe a try and indulge yourself in this little sin!
For the base:
250g kataifi dough
50g butter, melted
80-100g pistachios, chopped
For the syrup:
200g water (4/5 of a cup)
lemon peel from half a lemon
1 cinammon stick
For the custard:
750g whole milk, cold (3 cups)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g corn starch
4-5 egg yolks (depending on the size of the eggs)
a pinch of powdered mastic (optional)
For the whipped cream:
500g cold heavy whipping cream (2 cups)
60g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1) Start by making the base. Preheat the oven to 170°C and unroll the kataifi dough from the plastic sleeve. Work the kataifi dough with your hands, tearing apart the shreds and spreading the strands out a bit if they clump together, in order to get it fluffy. For this recipe you will need a 25cm square non-sticking baking dish. Butter the bottom of the baking dish and spread the kataifi dough to form the base. Pour over the melted butter and bake in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on your oven, until crispy and nicely coloured.
2) In the meantime prepare the custard (steps 2-4). Add in a large bowl the egg yolks with half the sugar (100g) and whisk until fluffy. Add 3-4 tbsps of the milk and corn starch, whisk again until the starch has dissolved. Set aside.
3) Pour the rest of the milk in a large non-stick pan and add the sugar and the vanilla extract. Place the pan over high heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the milk comes to the boil, remove from the heat and ladle 1/3 of the milk gradually into the egg mixture, while whisking. Place the pan (with the remaining milk) again on the stove and turn the heat down to medium. Add the egg mixture into the pan with the remaining warm milk. Whisk continuously, until the mixture has thickened and is smooth and creamy. Remove the pan from the stove, add the butter and stir.
4) Pour the custard in a large tray, cover with some plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should be touching the custard, so that it doesn’t form a crust) and let it cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
5) Take the kataifi out of the oven and let it cool down completely.
6) Prepare the syrup. Add all the ingredients for the syrup into a small pot and bring to the boil. Simmer the syrup for three minutes (without stirring) until slightly thickened and remove from the stove. Leave aside to cool until lukewarm. Slowly ladle the lukewarm syrup over the cold baked pastry, enabling each ladle to be absorbed. Set aside to cool down for a while.
7) Prepare the whipped cream and assemble the ekmek kataifi. Top the kataifi base with the custard and even out using a spatula. Put the cold heavy cream into a mixer’s bowl, add the icing sugar and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, for about a minute. Top with the whipped cream and even out. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and a pinch of cinnamon.
8) Store in the fridge and serve cold. Enjoy!
*For more mouthwatering Greek recipes go to www.mygreekdish.com