Kataïfi, alongside baklava, is one of the most popular Greek desserts and is made with a special pastry dough of thin thread-like strands, similar to angel hair pasta. Kataïfi is assembled by placing filling at one end and then rolling up the dough—when baked, the finished product looks like shredded wheat. Like many Greek dessert recipes, a simple syrup is poured over after baking. This not only adds a sweet finish but also acts as a preservative, allowing the pastry to last longer.
With today's commercially packaged dough, you'll find kataïfi fairly easy to make. The dough comes as a long strip, about 3 inches wide, making it easy to fill and roll-up. This is a great recipe for beginners and can be adjusted to include different tastes.
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups sugar (divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1 lemon peel (thin strip)
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup walnuts (coarsely chopped)
- 1 cup almonds (coarsely ground)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 egg white (lightly beaten)
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 pound kataïfi dough (defrosted per package instructions)
- 1/2 pound butter (melted)
Gather the ingredients.
To make the syrup, heat the water in a saucepan over low heat. Add 2 cups of sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and whole cloves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the honey. Remove from the heat.
Place a fine-mesh colander over a bowl and strain the syrup. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine the walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, ground clove, egg white, brandy, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar for the filling and blend well with a wooden spoon.
Lay the long strip of dough out on a clean work surface and divide it into 18 to 24 pieces, gently spreading the strands out a bit if they clump together. Each piece will be used to create an individual kataïfi roll. Keep the unused dough covered with a piece of waxed paper topped with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Brush a strip of dough with melted butter.
Place a tablespoon of the filling at one end of the strip and roll it up into a cylinder, tucking in any stray pieces of dough. Take care to roll the pastry tightly so that the filling is securely enclosed. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Place the rolls seam-side down in the prepared baking dish, close together but not squashed, and brush well with remaining butter. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and crispy looking.
Remove from the oven, pour the cooled syrup over the pastry, and drape the pan with a clean towel. Let cool about 3 to 4 hours as it absorbs the syrup.
- Add toppings to this delicious dessert, such as whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, ganache, or fruit preserves.
- Make the rolls the night before, cover tightly with wrap, and refrigerate (do not bake). Prepare the syrup while the rolls are baking. Follow directions accordingly as you will need the time to let the syrup absorb into the baked rolls for that extra goodness.