Ekmek Kataifi is a Greek dessert made with layers of syrupy shredded pastry, creamy custard, whipped cream and chopped nuts. An easy make-ahead dessert that will feed 8 adults or in our case, two sweet-toothed adults for 4 days 😄
I wanted to make something other than Kunafa with the remaining kataifi pastry. So I used Pinterest to find some inspiration for recipes using kataifi. I was totally surprised by the results. A decadent square of layered dessert called Ekmek Kataifi. It was so refreshing to learn about new dishes...
I read that though it sounds Turkish, this layered dessert is Greek and has no resemblance to the Turkish version. Having read several Greek Ekmek Kataifi recipes from top websites, I found that no two recipes are same. But they all had the same concept - baked kataifi, syrup, custard and whipped cream topped with nuts.
I went on to read more about Greek Vs Turkish cuisine. Several sources have discussed this topic in length - a quick google search will give you a lot to read up on. If Ottoman is involved, then similarities are bound to happen!
What is Ekmek Kataifi?
- Turkish Ekmek Kadayifi is a syrup-soaked bread topped with cream and nuts. If you noticed, this doesn't use kataifi but still reflects in the name.
- Greek Ekmek Kataifi is a multi-layer pudding made with syrupy shredded pastry, creamy custard, and whipped cream topped with chopped nuts. And here, you guessed it, doesn't use Ekmek (meaning bread) but has it in the name. I suppose the kataifi pastry base equals bread?
What is Custard Powder?
Custard powder is a pre-made instant mix that was developed by the chemist, Alfred Bird in 1837. He invented it for his wife who was allergic to eggs. A great alternative for not only those who are allergic to eggs but also for those who are vegan. This is very popular in India because most of the population prefers egg-free cakes and bakes. But please check the pack's ingredients before you buy because some custard powder brands contain egg and/or milk powder. Here in UAE, I have used Foster Clark and Al Alai brands and both are equally good. The ingredients of custard powder are usually corn starch, salt, colour, and artificial custard flavour.
You should make this Greek-style Ekmek Kataifi...
- If you have frozen kunafa dough sadly waiting to be used in your freezer.
- If you need to use up the other half of the kunafa pack after making a batch of my kunafa.
- If you have a tin of custard powder to be used up.
If you don't have custard powder, you can easily make pastry cream custard from scratch. You may refer to my custard pudding recipe to make custard using egg yolks.
I decided to make a big batch of Greek Ekmek Kataifi using Custard Powder for Eid-ul-Adha hoping I might have some walk-in guests. But (un)fortunately, no one came and we kept eating a portion for the next 5 days! No matter how 'full' you may feel there is always plenty of room for desserts. Agree?😁
How to make?
Prepare the syrup (flavoured with lemon rinds and cinnamon)
Work the shredded phyllo dough with your hands, separating the strands and spreading them out to make sure there are no lumps or knots. Comb until they turn out fluffy.
Bake the buttery kataifi base
Prepare the custard while kataifi is baking (flavoured with mastic or vanilla or rose water)
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and assemble and chill before serving.
The only issue I had with my batch is with the whipped cream layer. It turned out like a cloud and ran down covering the layers. I realized the whipped cream layer was way too thicker than it should be. But the moment of truth was when we tasted the pudding — out-of-the-world dreamy, creamy, luscious and indulging. 😋
I took a few pictures, and we ate the served slice, cling-wrapped and refrigerated the remaining.
It is a pretty straightforward recipe and you can increase or decrease the quantity to fit the size of your pan. Even if you end up with excess custard or whipped cream, you can easily use it up.
Greek Ekmek Kataifi using Custard Powder
- 1 cup white sugar
- ¾ cup water
- rind of half a lemon optional but recommended
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice skip if using rind
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the kataifi layer
- 250 grams kunafa dough kataifi or shredded phyllo pastry, thawed
- 60 to 80 grams unsalted butter melted (approx. ⅓ cup melted butter)
For the custard layer
- 3 cups milk
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons custard powder
- 2 to 3 mastic beads optional but recommended
- 1 teaspoon rose water skip if using mastic
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
For the whipped cream layer
- 1 cup whipping cream
- ⅓ cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the garnish
- chopped nuts pistachios or walnuts or almonds
- cinnamon powder
- dried rose petals
Prepare the syrup
- Take a deep pot and add the sugar, water, cinnamon stick and lemon rind or juice. Bring this to a full boil over medium to high heat without stirring.
- Boil for 5 minutes or until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prep the kataifi
- Unroll the fully thawed kataifi pastry. Work the shredded phyllo dough with your hands, separating the strands and spreading them out to make sure there are no lumps or knots. Comb until they turn out fluffy.
Bake the kataifi base
- Preheat the oven to 170°C / 338°F.
- Grease an 8x11inch deep oval dish with butter.
- Spread half of the fluffy kataifi pastry to cover the entire base.
- Sprinkle half of the melted butter all over using a pastry brush (don't let the brush touch the shredded pastry). Repeat with the remaining shredded pastry and the melted butter.
- Use a spatula to press down the sides of the pan so that you have a clean layer.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 30 to 40 minutes or until nice and golden.
- Remove from the oven and immediately pour all of the cooled syrup all over the base using a ladle. It may seem like too much syrup, but all of it will be absorbed while cooling.
Prepare the custard
- While the kataifi is baking, prepare the instant custard as per your pack instructions. You may refer to my custard pudding recipe to make custard using egg yolks.
- Add the milk and sugar to a deep saucepan. Remove ¼ cup of milk into a smaller bowl and stir in the custard powder until dissolved without any lumps.
- Now, heat the milk in the saucepan on low to medium flame until just warm.
- Pour the dissolved custard while whisking the milk continuously.
- Keep whisking until the milk thickens or until it coats the back of a wooden ladle.
- Switch off and transfer the custard into a bowl.
- Place a cling wrap or parchment paper touching the surface of the custard to prevent it from forming skin while cooling. Let the custard cool until it reaches room temperature.
Prepare the whipped cream
- Start this process only after the kataifi base and the custard has come to room temperature. Place your large metal bowl and the whisks of the electric hand-held mixer in the freezer. Make sure the whipping cream is also chilled.
- Add the cream and sugar to the chilled bowl and whisk using the hand mixer on medium to high for 3 to 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream should be thick and hold the shape.
- Check if the kataifi pastry has reached room temperature and has soaked all the syrup. Also, check if the custard is no longer hot or warm.
- Now, pour the cooled custard cream on top of the cooled syrupy kataifi and level it with the back of a spoon.
- Next, spread the whipped cream all over the custard layer. Traditionally, they use a fork to draw long lines all over the top, which I believe is to stick the custard and cream layer. I missed doing it and had trouble with the whipped cream layer sliding off when served.
- Sprinkle cinnamon powder, chopped nuts and or dried rose petals as much as you want.
- Cling wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for 3 to 4 hours.
- Cut into squares using a knife.
- Lift the piece using a wide-ended spatula and serve with fresh berries or seasonal fruits.
- Refrigerate any leftover cling wrapped tightly for up to 5 days but the whipped cream layer may lose its stability by day 2.
Recipe adapted from My Greek Dish