Greek Ekmek, a delicious mouthwatering alternative to your go-to tiramisu will have your guests and family raving. I believe the recipe is traditionally middle eastern but my favorite Greek restaurant Branas in Vancouver is where I first tasted it. The owner’s mother makes it and if you have a chance to try it do. I have never been able to replicate her delicate custard.
The recipe is not complicated but there are four components, each with pots or pans required, so be prepared for clean-up. The great advantage of Ekmek is it is better made the day before and served chilled.
There are three layers; first, a crisp Kataifi pastry oozing with cinnamon syrup, then a creamy custard topped with fluffy whipped cream.
What is Kataifi?
Kataifi is shredded phyllo pastry that looks like shredded wheat cereal. You can buy it in any middle eastern or Greek deli. It dries very quickly so work fast and don’t stop until it is in the oven at this step. A plain phyllo pastry from your local grocery store freezer section will work for the Ekmek too.
- 300 g Katifi or phyllo
- 60 g top quality butter melted
- 125 g chopped pistachios
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Butter a 9 x 11 in baking dish. Unroll the Kataifi, pull and stretch apart and layer in the baking dish. Tamp lightly down, careful not to press too hard. The more airy, the more crunchy. Drizzle the melted butter over it all and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until crispy and light brown. Crispy is important so it can soak up the syrup.
If you use phyllo, layer 8 sheets deep, buttering each layer well. You will need a bit more butter do this style. Set in the fridge to cool.
The Custard Layer
- 950 g whole milk, cold (3 3/4 c)
- 180 g sugar (7 oz)
- 3 g vanilla extract (3/4 tsp)
- 95 g cornstarch (3 1/4 oz)
- 5 -6 egg yolks (depending on the size of the eggs)
- 100 g butter (3.4 oz.)
- a pinch of powdered mastic (optional)
In a large bowl combine the egg yolks with half the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add 5 tbsp of the milk and the cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch has dissolved. Set aside.
In a pot add the rest of the milk, sugar, and vanilla. On high heat, stirring constantly bring to a boil. Move the pot to the cupboard. Take 1/3 of the hot milk mixture and whisk it into the egg mixture to warm it up. Then gradually whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk, stirring constantly. Place the pot back on the burner on medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened. Remove the pan, add butter and stir. Cover with plastic and let cool.
- 250 g sugar (8 oz.)
- 250g water (8 oz)
- lemon peel from a small lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
The syrup is for the cooled Kataifi. In a small pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, without stirring until the mixture is starting to thicken. Let cool until lukewarm. Drizzle the lukewarm syrup over the cold baked pastry so it absorbs slowly. Set aside to cool down.
- 625 g cold heavy whipping cream (2 1/2 cups)
- 75 g icing sugar (2 1/4 oz.)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat all the ingredients in a bowl chilled in the fridge or freezer until soft peaks form.
Assemble the Ekmek
Take the cooled Kataifi, and spoon on the cooled custard layer, spreading it smooth. Top with the whipped cream and sprinkle with more chopped pistachios and a bit of cinnamon. Put into the fridge and let set a minimum of two hours but preferably overnight.
Prepare to be wowed.