My mother used to make the Greek Ekmek Kataifi in Spring for our Easter holiday family gatherings. I always felt it was the perfect ending for a holiday feast under the warm sun of the Greek spring. It is so refreshing, light, and creamy… and no matter how ‘full’ you may feel there’s always room for a piece or two… This easy to follow
The Greek Ekmek Kataifi is a traditional dessert made with phyllo and thus is an exception to the paleo and primal recipes on this website. Recently, I was asked to do a cooking demonstration and make a Greek dessert using phyllo dough. As this is my favorite one of the desserts made with phyllo and syrup, I prepared this for the demonstration. Since then, everybody has been asking me for the recipe, so I decided to post it here.
When making Greek Ekmek Kataifi, the kataifi phyllo dough is drizzled with high-quality butter and baked until golden and crispy. Then, it is bathed with a hot simple syrup, spiced with lemon rind and cinnamon. Then, it is topped with a custard (crème patisserie) which is infused with lemon rind and
It has a light texture and refreshing taste, despite the richness of the individual layers. The lemon rind, cinnamon and mastiha that alternate between the different layers, give a unique flavor profile and bring it all together.
Each stage requires using a few pots and pans and may seem intimidating to prepare. However, it is really easy to make, and the end result is well worth the extra time. It is important that, when it is time to assemble the dessert, all materials (base, custard, and whipped cream) must be cold or at room temperature, so I recommend making the custard and the whipped cream a day ahead of time and have them ready and chilled when making the rest of the dessert.
When making Greek Ekmek Kataifi, I like to start with the custard, (in contrast to other recipes that instruct to prepare the kataifi base first. The custard (crème patisserie) is the most essential part for a traditional and probably the trickiest part of this recipe. To achieve a creamy, silky texture the key is to temper the eggs with the warm milk and then constantly whisk the mixture while it is cooking, so it doesn’t get lumpy. Prepare the custard over medium-low heat in order to prevent it from burning and sticking on the bottom of the pan but be cautious not to undercook it. It’s ready when you can’t taste the flour and its texture is thick. Pour the custard in a wide dish and cover with cling film, making sure that the film touches the surface of the cream so that it does not form a crust. Let the custard cool to room temperature before using it.
To prepare the perfect whipped cream, chill a clean bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) in the freezer for 10 minutes and make sure that your heavy whipping cream is very cold. Be careful not to over beat the cream as it will start becoming like butter.
The custard and the whipped cream can be prepared a day ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the ekmek kataifi dessert.
Kataifi is a shredded phyllo dough that resemble angel hair pasta. If using frozen kataifi, let it reach room temperature in its package before using it. The strands of the kataifi phyllo are pressed to each other during packaging, so before using it, you have to fluff it up by just pulling the strands. It is this texture that makes any recipe where is used very light and airy. Like any phyllo dough, if it remains exposed to air for a long time, it will dry out, so when preparing it, keep it covered with a napkin or cling film.
To make the base layer of the
Once the kataifi base has reached room temperature and soaked all the syrup, add the custard cream on top and smooth its surface. Add the whipped cream here and there. Using a spatula spread out evenly to create a flat even surface. Dust the Ekmek with ground cinnamon and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight before serving to that the flavors combine and develop the Ekmek ’s unique profile and it is easier to cut in pieces.
Greek Ekmek Kataifi
For the Custard
For the Kataifi Base
- 12 oz Kataifi Phyllo Pastry (about 2/3 of the package)
- 3/4 cup butter melted
For the Whipped Cream
- 16 fl oz Heavy Whipping Cream very cold
- 2 tbsp Confectioner’s Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Ground Cinnamon
- 3 oz Unsalted Pistachios or Toasted Almonds chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350oF.
- In a medium sized pot, add the milk, lemon peel and vanilla extract. Heat the mixture over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl add the egg yolks and sugar, and using a hand-held mixer, beat until the mixture gets fluffy and has a light color.
- Add the corn starch and flour and beat for half more minute to incorporate them into the egg yolk mixture. The mixture will be thick and a bit difficult to work; this is ok.
- Once the milk mixture looks that it is about to boil, start pouring slowly (threadlike) into the egg mixture using a ladle, while you constantly beat the egg mixture (The egg mixture gets tempered and you do not end up with scrambled eggs…)
- Continue until you have added all of the milk into the eggs. Transfer the egg mixture back to the pot.
- Cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly (preferably using a whisk) until it becomes thick and creamy. At some point, bubbles will start form on the surface of the cream. Continue for another minute or two and remove from the heat.
- Pour the custard in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the custard so that it does not form a crust as it cools down. Let the custard cool until it reaches room temperature (alternatively, you can refrigerate for a couple of hours).
- In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel.
- Bring to boil over medium heat. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let boil for 7-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, discard the lemon peel and the cinnamon, and set aside.
- Unroll the kataifi pastry. Separate the shredded phyllo dough with your hands, making sure there are no knots and it fluffs up.
- Grease a 9×13 inch pan with butter and spread the kataifi pastry to form the base for the custard. Drizzle with the melted butter.
- Bake for 30 – 40 minutes (depending on your oven), rotating the pan halfway through until it gets a nice golden color.
- Remove from the oven and pour the syrup on top of the pastry using a ladle.
- Set aside to allow the pastry to soak up the syrup and cool down and reach room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer), add the heavy cream and the vanilla extract.
- Beat the cream on high speed.
- Once soft picks start to for on the surface, reduce the speed to medium and add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
- Keep beating until a thick cream is formed.
- Once the kataifi pastry and the custard have reached room temperature, add the custard on top of the kataifi. Using a spatula, spread the custard evenly over the kataifi.
- Put the whipped cream in a piping bag. Alternatively, you can use a food storage bag and cut a corner of the bag.
- Pipe the whipped cream on top of the custard, covering the surface to the pan. Using a spatula, spread it out evenly.
- Dust the ekmek kataifi with cinnamon, and sprinkle with the nuts (if using).
- Cover the ekmek kataifi with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting my website.