Kataifi (ka-ta-e-fee), also known as shredded wheat dessert, Kataifi, along with the more well known Baklava, is one of the most popular and delicious Greek Desserts. It is made with a special type of pastry called kataifi or kadaifi. The pastry is like angel hair pasta and when rolled up resembles shredded wheat. A delectable nutty centre is rolled inside crisp, thread like strands of pastry, baked, then soaked in a sweet syrup. Like many Greek dessert recipes a sweet syrup is poured over the cooked sweets, which keep them from drying out and preserves them. Some traditional Greek recipes use only almonds, but a mixture of walnuts, pistachios and almonds – even pecan nuts and pine nuts could also be used.
Kataifi should be treated in the same way as phyllo pastry with regards to thawing and storing.
450 g Kataifi pastry, thawed overnight
225 g butter, melted
50 g walnuts, finely chopped
50 g pistachios, finely chopped
50 g flaked almonds, finely chopped
125 ml sugar
5 ml ground cinnamon
1 ml ground cloves
1 egg white, lightly beaten
180 ml honey
500 ml sugar
625 ml water
1 cinnamon stick
rind of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 ℃ and line a baking sheet with a Wizbake baking sheet.
- In a food processor, pulse your nut mixture until you’ve achieved a crumbly nut mixture. Empty into a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients of the filling.
- Unroll the Kataifi pastry and work the pastry with your hands, tearing apart the shreds and gently spreading it out a bit. Cover the Kataifi pastry with a damp towel.
- Work with one piece of pastry at a time and drizzle the surface of the Kataifi with melted butter.
- Spoon 15 ml of the nut mixture at one end of the Kataifi strip.
- Roll the strip up tightly into a small cylinder. Do the same with the rest of the pastry and filling.
- Pack the the assembled Kataifi rolls tighlty on the baking sheet and drizzle with some more of the melted butter.
- Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool.
- To make the syrup, combine all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and it bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Keep the syrup hot until your Kataifi has cooled from the oven. The Kataifi must be cool and the syrup hot!
- Using a ladle, pour 3/4 of the hot syrup over the kataifi.
- Set the Kataifi aside for 10 minutes. Ladle the rest of the syrup over the kataifi and allow to cool before serving.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Nut-filled layers of filo pastry, flavoured with spices and drenched with a fragrant syrup is one of the most irresistible sweet treats. This adapted recipe is not overly sweet or spicy. Make baklava at least two hours or up to a day before serving to allow the syrup to work it’s way through all the layers.
300 g nuts (see Note below)
10 ml ground cinnamon
5 ml mixed spice
1 x 500g pack filo pastry
125 g melted butter
375 ml sugar
1 cinnamon stick
30 ml lemon juice
45 ml honey
15 ml brandy or rose water
15 ml sherry (optional but good)
- Combine the selected nuts to make up 300g and place into the bowl of a food processor. Use the “pulse action” and chop the nuts very briefly until coarsely and evenly chopped but not too fine. Stop once or twice in between and stir to allow the larger pieces to move closer to the blade.
- Add the sugar and spices and mix.
- Brush the base and sides of a rectangular dish or baking tray (± 30 x 20 x 6cm) with melted butter and pre-heat the oven to 170°C (see notes below) .
- Divide the pastry sheets into four and the nut mixture into three. Line the dish with the first ¼ of filo pastry, brushing lightly in between all sheets with the melted butter. Fold the pastry in at the sides if necessary but do not cut away and discard any pastry. Brush the top of the last layer with melted butter.
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture over the pastry and repeat until four layers of pastry with three layers of nuts in between have been made, ending with pastry. Brush the rest of the butter over the top.
- Mark the pastry into diamonds or squares (2 ½ – 3 cm side length) with a sharp knife, cutting through the top layers only to prevent the syrup from accumulating in the dish under the last layer.
- Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To make the syrup, place the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, cloves and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until the sugar has melted.
- Simmer gently for 10 minutes to become syrupy. Remove from heat, stir in the honey and flavouring and allow to cool while the pastry is still baking.
- Remove the pastry from the oven and pour the cooled syrup slowly and evenly over the hot pastry.
- Allow to cool completely (at least 3 hours) to absorb all the syrup before cutting through the marked lines into diamonds or squares.
- Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Baklava may be frozen to extend the period of enjoyment!
Serves 24 – 30 portions, depending on size.
- Combine at least three kinds of nuts or even more for the best flavour. You can include Walnuts, Sliced Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Macadamias, Brazil Nuts or Cashew Pieces.
- Selecting a dish or baking tray in such a way that one side of the dish corresponds with the width of the filo pastry will make the layering process a pleasure and the end result as neat as can be.
Recipe by Carolié de Koster for the Art Of Cooking Recipe Book p. 787.