Kataifi Ekmek: A Greek Shredded Phyllo with Syrup, Custard and Whipped Cream

 Kataifi ekmek (καταίφι εκμέκ) is a shredded phyllo dessert with syrup, custard, and whipped cream that comes from the Greeks of Constantinople. Strange enough this recipe reminds me of a popular TV show when I was a kid. The show was called Loxandra and it was based on the book of Maria Ioardanidou. 

In a nutshell, it is the story of  Loxandra from her marriage to getting old. She marries at an old age a widow with four children. She raises the children, arranges their marriages, emigrates, grows old. Through her life story unfolds the history of the whole city of Instabul, through the events that marked it before the First World War. 

Through Loxandra many people discovered the obsession that Greeks of Constantinople had with cooking and delicious recipes. Loxandra was a great cook, spend a lot of her time in her cuisine preparing "politika" dishes and for her loved ones. She make everything seem so simple when everything was complicated. 

To make kataifi ekmek you need the following: shredded phyllo dough, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, honey, butter, almonds, milk, vanilla extract, egg yolks, corn starch, heavy cream, and pistachios.  

This kataifi ekmek recipe takes 60 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to bake. I have tried to make the steps and the process as clear and easy as possible. It serves 8 to 10 persons. 

Kataifi Ekmek: A Greek Shredded Phyllo with Syrup, Custard and Whipped Cream

Greek Kataifi Ekmek - Ingredients

For the syrup

  • 500 g of water
  • 600 g of  sugar
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

For the base

  • 500 g of shredded phyllo dough
  • 150 g of butter
  • 120g of almonds, chopped

For the custard

  • 500 ml of milk
  • 75 g of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of  vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 75 g of flour
  • 30 g of corn starch
  • 30 g of butter, chilled

For the whipped cream

  • 500 g heavy cream 35%, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon of  vanilla extract
  • 50 g of powdered sugar

For serving

  • pistachios, crushed

Greek Kataifi Ekmek - How to Make

Step 1 - Making the custard

  1. In a bowl, add the sugar and the egg yolks.
  2. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and corn starch and whisk to incorporate. Add some cold milk to dilute the mixture. 
  4. In a pot, add the remaining milk and vanilla extract.
  5. Place the pot over medium to low heat so that the milk doesn’t burn.
  6. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from heat.
  7. Scoop up a few ladlefuls of the hot mixture in the pot and slowly add it to the bowl, while whisking continuously.
  8. Transfer the contents of the bowl back to the pot. Cook over medium heat until it thickens.
  9. Turn off heat and taste the custard. It should not have any corn starch taste at all.
  10. Add the chilled butter and whisk until the butter melts and is incorporated.
  11. Allow the custard to cool before using.
  12. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the custard directly (so that a film is not formed), and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Step 2 - Making the syrup

  1. In a pot, add the water, sugar, lemon rind, and cinnamon stick.
  2. Place the pot over low heat and bring to a boil.
  3. As soon as it starts to boil, add the honey and boil for 3-4 minutes until the sugar melts.
  4. When ready, remove from heat and set it aside to cool completely.

Step 3 - Making the kataifi 

  1. Take a baking pan and cover it with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and using a brush, lightly grease the lined tray on which the kataifi will be baked.
  2.  Lay the kataifi dough on your working surface and divide it into 8 – 10 pieces by gently spreading the strands and fluffing it. Each piece will be used to create an individual kataifi roll.
  3.  Brush each piece with melted butter. Place a tablespoon with chopped almonds at one end of the strip and roll up into a cylinder, tucking in any stray pieces of dough. 
  4. Roll the pastry tightly so that the filling is securely enclosed. 
  5. Place it on your baking tin and continue with the next piece.
  6. The unused dough is better to be kept between damp towels (not soaked) to maintain its moisture.
  7. Place the rolls seam-side down on the lined baking tray, close together but not squashed, and brush well with remaining butter. 
  8. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and crispy looking.
  9. Remove the kataifi from the oven and, while still hot, pour the syrup with a spoon, slowly, to let the kataifi absorb it.  

Step 4 -  Making the whipped cream

  1. In a mixer, add the chilled heavy cream, vanilla extract, and icing sugar.
  2. Beat on high speed for 2-3 minutes, until you create a whipped cream that has the texture of yogurt.

Step 5 -  Making the Kataifi Ekmek

  1. Take the kataifi and with the help of a spatula evenly cover it with the custard. 
  2. Evenly pour the whipped cream
  3. Top with pistachios
  4. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. 
You need to keep kataifi ekmek in the refrigerator. Enjoy!