If you walk into a pastry shop in Beirut (specializing in Arabic sweets), a good third of all pastries will be made with this dough, called kataifi or shredded phyllo dough. I saw once how this dough is made: A batter is piped through hundreds of minuscule little holes onto a hot griddle which forms the long hair-like strands of dough. In Beirut, this pastry is made in certain shops and can be purchased fresh. In the US, the option is to buy it frozen or in a bag (not frozen) imported from Turkey.
I prefer to buy it in a bag, which affords me the luxury of using only as much as I need; with the frozen dough you have to use the entire package within 10 days or so.
These pastries are just easy to make at home; they can be prepared in advance; they get the “wow” response with minimal effort.
INGREDIENTS: 8 servings
- 3 cups of kadaifi dough (either frozen or not)
- 1 1/2 cup of clarified butter (can use margarine or oil as well)
- 1 1/2 cup of mascarpone or ricotta or mozzarella or unsalted akkawi cheese
- 1/2 cup of syrup (or honey)
- Grab the quantity of dough you need; untangle it (if it is frozen, it will be shaped as a long rope) and place in a bowl; pour the clarified butter (or melted margarine or oil) on it and with two forks combine thoroughly to make sure the strands are well-buttered.
- Place small equal-size mounds in cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Let it sit there for a while (cover and place in the fridge overnight if you wish). When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastries are golden throughout.
- Serve warm with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta or cream and pass a small jug of syrup around to sweeten as desired.
Another option is to insert a piece of cheese in the middle of the pastry; the challenge here is to keep the cheese from hardening with the long baking time and yet make sure the pastries are golden and crispy. Best cheeses for this are mozzarella-type cheeses, which need to be soaked in water several times to remove any trace of saltiness. Middle-Eastern store sell a special cheese called “sweet cheese” made especially for pastries that could be used here.
After the pastries have baked and are golden and crispy, you can tilt the muffin tin and remove the extra butter or oil.
MAKING THE SYRUP:
1 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar: Boil for 10 minutes with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of rose water and orange blossom water at the end.