Kataïfi, alongside baklava, is one of the most popular Greek desserts and is made with a special pastry dough that is in the form 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.
The first time we made rolled kataïfi, we bought a huge bag of fresh kataïfi dough and ended up with a kitchen covered with shredded dough and about three pieces of the actual pastry. With today's commercially packaged dough, you'll find the pastries easier to make—the dough comes as a long strip, about 3 inches wide. This is a great recipe for beginners and can be adjusted later to include different tastes.
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- A thin strip of lemon peel
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup walnuts (coarsely chopped)
- 1 cup almonds (coarsely ground)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 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)
Prepare the Syrup
Heat the water in a saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and cloves, and bring to a boil. Reduce 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.
Make the Filling
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and blend well with a wooden spoon.
Prepare the Dough
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 unused dough covered with a piece of waxed paper and a damp towel on top of that to keep it from drying out.
Preheat 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 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.
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 cooled syrup over the pastry and cover with a clean towel. Let cool about 3 to 4 hours as it absorbs the syrup.