Greek Ekmek Kataifi using Custard Powder

Ekmek Kataifi is a delicious chilled dessert recipe from Greece made with layers of syrupy shredded pastry, creamy custard, whipped cream and chopped nuts. An easy make-ahead dessert that will feed at least 8 adults or in our case, two sweet-toothed adults for 4 days 😄 
Greek Ekmek Kataifi using Custard Powder


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 then googled about Ekmek Kataifi and learnt that though it sounds Turkish, this layered creamy dessert is actually 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 were the same, but they all had the same concept - baked kataifi, syrup, custard and whipped cream topped with nuts. 

Greek Ekmek Kataifi

I then 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 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 after making a batch of my kunafa or if you have a tin of custard powder to be used up. In my case, I had a pack of frozen kataifi dough since Ramadan but I bought a tin of custard powder to skip the egg yolks and also make a batch of Rafeeda's Habbat Al Hamra. If you don't have custard powder, you can easily make pastry cream custard from scratch using the recipe in my berries and custard pudding (linked in the recipe below). 

So 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?😁 As my blog lacks dessert recipes and I clearly don't want to make this again unless I have family or friends over, I decided to share this Ekmek Kataifi recipe on the blog. 

Greek Ekmek Kataifi

How to make Greek Ekemk Kataifi?

  1. Prepare the syrup (flavoured with lemon rinds and cinnamon)
  2. Bake the buttery kataifi base
  3. Prepare the custard while kataifi is baking (flavoured with mastic or vanilla or rose water)
  4. Whip the cream to stiff peaks
  5. Assemble and chill before serving
syrup making

combed kataifi

baked kataifi layer

cooking custard

Greek Ekmek Kataifi

The only issue I had with my batch is with the whipped cream layer (above picture). I have been using the same brand of whipped cream for several years and yet this time it kinda didn't stay whipped for long. I want to blame the current humidity because it was perfectly whipped to stiff peaks and was thick. Yet when I tried to slice and scoop out a piece of ekmek kataifi, the whipped cream behaved like a cloud and ran down covering the layers.😩I then 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. 

Greek Ekmek Kataifi

The next day, I wanted to take better pictures showing off the perfect layers but the whipped cream got even softer and runny. So, I removed most of the whipped cream and used it to make fruit cream. Sliced the Ekmek Kataifi and topped with a fresh cherry. Not bad, though not so happy with the whipped cream layer and nor do I want to make it again to add to our out-of-control calorie intake😶.  I have reduced the whipping cream quantity in the recipe below so you don't have excess like I did. Also, please let me know in the comments if you know how to make sure the whipped cream stays whipped for a longer time. 

Greek Ekmek Kataifi

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 Recipe using Custard Powder

INGREDIENTS

For syrup:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 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:

  • 250g frozen kataifi (shredded phyllo pastry), thawed
  • 60 to 80g unsalted butter, melted (approx. 1/3 cup melted butter)

For the custard layer:

  • 3 cups of milk
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of custard powder 
  • 2 to 3 mastic beads (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (skip if using mastic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence 

For the whipped cream layer:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence 

For the garnish:

  • chopped nuts (pistachios or walnuts or almonds)
  • cinnamon powder 
  • edible rose petals 

METHOD

Prepare the syrup: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Boil for 5 minutes or until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prep the kataifi: 

  1. 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: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 338°F
  2. Grease an 8x11inch deep oval dish with butter. 
  3. Spread half of the fluffy kataifi pastry to cover the entire base. 
  4. 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. 
  5. Use a spatula to press down the sides of the pan so that you have a clean layer. 
  6. Bake in the pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 30 to 40 minutes or until nice and golden.
  7. 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. 
  1. Add the milk and sugar to a deep saucepan. Remove 1/4 cup of milk into a smaller bowl and stir in the custard powder until dissolved without any lumps. 
  2. Now, heat the milk in the saucepan on low to medium flame until just warm. 
  3. Pour the dissolved custard while whisking the milk continuously. 
  4. Keep whisking until the milk thickens or until it coats the back of a wooden ladle. 
  5. Switch off and transfer the custard into a bowl. 
  6. Place a cling wrap or parchment paper touching the surface of the custard to prevent it from forming skin while cooling. 
  7. Let the custard cool until it reaches room temperature. 

Prepare the whipped cream: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 

Assemble Greek Ekmek Kataifi: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Now, pour the cooled custard cream on top of the cooled syrupy kataifi and level it with the back of a spoon. 
  3. 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.  

Garnish

  1. Sprinkle cinnamon powder, chopped nuts and or dried rose petals as much as you want. 
  2. Cling wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for 3 to 4 hours.  

Serve

  1. Cut into squares using a knife. 
  2. Lift the piece using a wide-ended spatula and serve with fresh berries or seasonal fruits. 

Store

  1. Refrigerate any leftovers cling wrapped tightly for up to 5 days but the whipped cream layer may lose its stability by day 2. 
A piece of Greek Ekmek Kataifi

While reading about the commonality of Greek and Turkish cuisine, I came across the fact that there is an ongoing political tension between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean Sea and are almost at war. JFYI. 

Resources referred for recreating this Ekmek Kataifi recipe:
Including this post in my Globe Cooking Mad repository. 

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