Now I don’t claim to be a Greek or Turkish pastry queen. Certainly I’m no Peter Minakis from Kalofagas.ca – not even close. However, one of my friends served Ekmek Kataifi a few weeks ago and I loved it and couldn’t wait to make my own. Both Greece and Turkey claim this pastry but I really don’t care – it’s just wonderful.
The Turks created the idea by soaking a bread pudding with the syrup but the Greeks turned it into a masterpiece by placing it on kataifi pastry and topping it with custard and cream.
My darling John doesn’t have a sweet tooth in his head but will occasionally try things and will always eat a piece of birthday cake just to be kind so I wasn’t expecting much when I asked if he’d like a piece. Not only did he have a small piece, he went back for two more. Folks, I think you should try this one.
The recipe isn’t difficult but it’s got a few steps that take a wee while to put all together. Don’t you like wee while? When I lived in New Zealand everyone used that phrase. I knew it would come in handy and today it has. You have to make the base, make the syrup, make the custard, cool everything, put them together, whip the cream and decorate it. Nothing takes a long time, but there are several steps.
It’s got a kataifi pastry base. Kataifi looks a little like shredded wheat that’s not been trimmed, however that’s not what it’s made of. Amazingly it’s poured onto a hot spinning wheel. Have a look at this video. I think it’s very cool how they do it.
The kataifi pastry comes in the frozen food section of the supermarket – you don’t need to get a wheel and start spinning. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and this is what it looks like when it’s still in the bag.
Before you can use it, you must tease out all the strands of pastry. It comes pretty jam packed together. Then the recipe calls for placing it at the bottom of a loaf pan then brushing it with butter. You know I can’t leave anything alone, so I melted the butter and drizzled it over the pastry in the bowl and then worked the butter into the strands with my fingers so every one was coated. I’m not sure this is required because you later drizzle the whole thing with a ton of syrup. (a ton might be a slight exaggeration)Then bake it in the oven at 200°C or 400°F for about 10 minutes until it’s golden brown.
Once the pastry is cooling, it’s time to make the syrup. Let the pastry cool and add the hot syrup over the cooled pastry. The syrup is really simple to make. Just mix the ingredients together and boil for 8 minutes or so until it begins to thicken and then pour over the cool pastry. It smelled really good.
Now set the pastry aside to cool and get on with making the custard. Custard is really easy and I don’t know why so many people are afraid to make it. Yeah you can curdle the eggs but you’ll only do that once and then you’ll know what you did wrong.
This custard is made from eggs, semolina, cornflour (corn starch), sugar and vanilla that are whisked together and then mixed with boiling milk that’s been infused with mastic (mastika, masticha). Mastic is an aromatic spice which comes from the harvested resin of Mastic trees from the Greek island Chios. They’re also called tears.
The recipe calls for ground mastic and the method is to freeze them and then put them in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin. I put mine in my thermomix and whizzed them.
Put the ground mastic into the milk and bring to the boil. While whisking the egg mixture, put one ladle of hot milk into the mix. Don’t stop whisking as this is the only tricky bit to making custard. Add another ladle and whisk and the and then a third. Mix well and put the egg mixture into the milk. Return to the heat and stir constantly until thickened. You want this thick because it needs to stand up on the pastry.
Once it’s thick add the coconut and set aside to cool. Once cool pour it over the pastry and spread evenly. Leave at room temperature until fully cool and then refrigerate for at least four hours. This is not a quick dessert but it’s a very special one. If John liked it, it’s got to be good.
When it’s been in the refrigerator for the four hours (or overnight), remove and take it out of the pan. If you’ve done your baking paper well, it will come right out. Peel the paper off and plate your pastry. Don’t be alarmed – frankly it looks pretty crap at this point. It looks lumpy because of the coconut and the color is well.. not appetizing. (I’m only being honest) Doesn’t matter. It’s time to decorate it.
Chop the pistachios and finally, whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe and you’re nearly done.
Then sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and you’re ready to serve. Honestly, the combination of the crunchy pastry dripping in syrup, the cool, wonderfully flavored custard and the light creamy topping makes it a dessert fit for a king. (or queen who might or might not be celebrating her jubiliee)
- 2 Cups Water
- 2 Cups Sugar
- Rind of ½ lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 190 grams Kataifi pastry
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted.
- 2½ cups whole milk
- ½ tsp ground mastic (also known as mastika or tears)
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup fine semolina flour
- 1 tsp cornflour
- ¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cream stabilizer or powdered milk
- 3 tsp icing sugar or to taste
- 1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios for garnish
- Heat oven to 200C
- Grease and line a loaf pan with baking paper
- Tease pastry apart and press into the bottom of pan
- Brush with melted butter and place in oven til golden brown, about 10 minutes
- Place sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce head to medium and boil approximately 8 minutes until thick.
- Remove from the heat and add lemon juice and lemon rind.
- Pour hot syrup over cooled pastry base and set aside to cool
- Place milk and mastic into a saucepan and heat until boiling.
- In a large bowl add eggs, semolina, cornflour, sugar and vanilla and whisk well.
- Temper the eggs by adding 3 ladles of hot milk into the eggs, whisking all the time.
- Pour the tempered egg mixture into the milk and return to the heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Add coconut and stir.
- Remove from the heat and place cling film on the surface of the custard and set aside to cool.
- Pour cooled custard over cooled pastry and spread evenly. Leave at room temperature until fully cool and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Invert onto a plate and then invert again so the custard is on top and the pastry is on the bottom.
- In a clean bowl add cream, icing sugar and vanilla and whip until thick enough to pipe
- Place cream in an icing bag with a star tip and pipe rosettes to decorate.
- Garnish with chopped pistachios.