Ekmek Kataifi

Spread the love

This past summer while in Greece I had the pleasure of also visiting Constantinople (Istanbul) for a second time. Prior to heading to this huge foodie destination, I knew (and wanted) to sample  the many desserts and sweets that were on offer. This post is more about a dessert that’s taken another form from it’s original one, Ekmek Kataifi.

At the Greek/Turkish border crossing over the Evros River
Ekmek, as served in Istanbul

In Turkey, the dessert is simply Ekmek, a bread pudding soaked in syrup and topped with Kaimak (Kaimaki), a sweetened clotted cream. The Greek take on this dessert consists of a kataifi pastry base/bottom, a semolina cream center and a topping of whipped cream. Toasted almonds or chopped pistachios are usually the crowning glory…oh nuts & joy!

Kataifi pastry (also called Kataifi phyllo) is looks like vermicelli or shredded wheat. It’s sold in Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern stores and I even saw it sold at a Loblaws Superstore! Kaitaifi pastry is made by drizzling rows of thin streams of flour and water batter on to a revolving hot platter. They dry into strands on wire-thin pastry. This other type of “phyllo” is popular from Greece to the Levant and it usually appears in desserts and now appearing more often in savory dishes. Just last week I made a Kunefe and last year I made the classic Kataifi (similar to Baklava).

Watch this Turkish dude make Kataifi pastry:

Pretty cool, eh? No worries, this recipe doesn’t require you to make your own kataifi. What you will have to do is defrost the kataifi overnight in your fridge as soon as you’re ready to make the dessert, take the Kataifi out of the fridge for 1o minutes to come to room temperature. The first thing that should be made for this dessert is the syrup. Just like with Baklava and other syrupy desserts featuring phyllo, either the pastry has be cold/syrup hot OR pastry hot/syrup cold. In this case, the logical approach to this recipe is making the syrup first, allowing it to cool to room temperature and then pouring it over the just out of the oven hot kataifi.

The center of the dessert is a custard made with a semolina flour base and some corn starch. There’s sugar, shredded coconut and the wonderful and aromatic spice called Mastic (or mastiha, Masticha, mastika). Mastic (Mastiha in Greek) comes from the island of Chios and it is exclusively produced in the 24 villages on the southern part of the island.

Mastiha does grown on other parts of the world but as my friend (and mastiha expert) Artemis points out,

“the resin from these specific trees has a distinct aroma, color and importantly, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties not found in the other resins. In fact, the trees in this portion of Chios have been given “var. Chia” as their scientific variety name because of their production of this unique resin.”

Mastiha most commonly appears in the form of tears, little off-white  nuggets that from the harvested resin of the Mastic trees. Mastic often appears in the breads, the Greek Easter bread (Tsoureki), custards and many desserts. Mastiha can also be found in some inventive savory dishes.

The recipe I’ve decided to go with is flavoured mildly with ground mastiha. I placed some mastiha in the freezer  and after a half-hour or so I take them out, place them between two pieces of plastic cling-film and crush with a rolling pin. I then carefully scoop the ground mastiha with an offset spatula and use it in my recipe. The custard is very easy and as soon as it cools, it’s placed on top of the cooled kataifi base and then allowed to set and ultimately placed in the fridge.

The cream center and kataifi base require at least 3-4 hours in the fridge to set – overnight would be best. The next day, Loosen the sides with a knife, invert onto a platter and then revert (cream-side up) onto to your serving/presentation dish. The last step is to simply whip your cream and top your dessert. The flavouring of the whipped cream is icing sugar and some vanilla extract. I’ve also experimented with adding some powdered milk as a stabilizer to the whipped cream – I am very happy with the results!

Ekmek (literally means bread in Turkish) Kataifi is a rich dessert but it’s also light at the same time. This recipe comes from a huge cook book from Sofia Skoura. It’s only available in Greek, worth the money and if this recipe is any indication, the recipes work out. The original Skoura recipe is suitable for a party and you would need one of those large, round and deep baking trays (30 cm. circumference). I’ve cut the recipe into a third and I’ve utilized one of those long, thin loaf pans, you know…they are slightly longer than your usual loaf pan, little thinner and they are often used to bake an angel loaf.

I know the photos have already sold you on this dessert, you know where to buy kataifi pastry, you can make a basic custard and you can even order mastiha and have it mailed to your kitchen doorstep but what does this dessert taste like? Think a slightly soft yet crisp kaitaifi base just hints of the syrup that permeated the just hot-out-of-the-oven pastry. The creamy custard with the aroma of mastiha and its unique flavour, bites of shredded coconut for a natural sweetness and finally, the soft, pillowy whipped cream rosettes that are topped with the chopped pistachios.

For this recipe and more, please buy my Everything Mediterranean cookbook.

© 2010 – 2014,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

28 Comments for “Ekmek Kataifi”


I’d like to place my order for one with Almonds, please. :) Do you take cash, cheque or credit? I can pay you in decadent brownies with chocolate sauce. ;)



I like to use rice flour instead of semolina. If a recipe calls for semolina can I substitute the equal amount of rice flour?


Shelly, rice flour behaves much like corn starch…you can try it out…and ler me know how it turns out. I can add a note to the recipe if it works out well.


Looks great! When I made my version a few months ago I loved the addition of mastiha to the custard (something I hadn’t done before then). This is one of my favorite desserts. I will look into that cookbook by Sofia Skoura as I have never seen it. Hopping over to Amazon right now though if it is in Greek it likely won’t be there.


It looks absolutely amazing this dessert. My husband is Turkish and would die for this dessert. He loves anything with ‘kataifi’. I live in GTA and we found one amazing bakery in the Keele and Wilson area. It’s run by a Turkish baker and his desserts and baklava are to die for. Thanks for sharing this recipe.


Peter, WOW! This is so good. The custard alone makes me drool! Yumm! I was just telling my husband houw much i loved Greece and that next time we go we must visit its neighbours!


Υπέροχη συνταγή, υπεροχη εμφάνιση,υπέροχη παρουσίαση. Αν είχα κανταΐφι θα το έφτιαχνα σήμερα!


In searching for recipes for pumpkin I recently found a recipe using the shredded filo. I remember the honey laden desserts in Greece using this delicacy but have never attempted it myself. Your dessert is a showstopper Peter.


This is so amazing, Peter. That video is pretty cool and the whole dessert is intriguing but looks and sounds so delicious. I love when you make desserts!


you know i love it when you do greek desserts. and this is just fabulous. i mean the textures alone are perfect. i think i could pull of this dessert. i do have a lot of pistachios on hand, as always.



I must be blind or missing something, could you tell me when and where I add the coconut.
Thanks, can’t wait to give this a go.


First of all great site i really enjoy reading your writings. But just to inform, there are three types of kadayıf (kataifi) in Turkey. One is tel kadayıf and the other one is ekmek kadayıfı ( And there is the yassi kadayıf very different form these two). Tel kadayıf is the stringy one and the ekmek kadayıf is the bread like one. Tel kadayıf is prepared in more than dozen ways and greek version is one of the ways but not very popular. Mostly it is baked with butter and sweetened with very heavy and sweet sugar syrup. A Very old ottoman recipe calls for lightly baked telkadayif sweetened with sugar and milk and served with kaymak ( old residents of istanbul like this version) . Eastern and western traditions vary. But there is the kunefe, t,el kadayıf baked with a special Cheese and then Served with heavy sugar syrup.