Celebrate Strawberry Season with This Gorgeous Ekmek Kataifi

Paola Velez makes her recipe for Greek-inspired Strawberry Ekmek Kataifi on this week’s episode of Pastries with Paola.

We're in the thick of strawberry season, so it's only fitting that this week's episode of Pastries with Paola features a gorgeous strawberry dessert. After making a Maria Cookie Icebox Cake in episode one (which also happened to be topped with strawberries), she's now using the fruit in her recipe for Strawberry Ekmek Kataifi. Ekmek Kataifi is a Greek dessert made with kataifi (shredded phyllo dough) that's soaked in syrup and traditionally topped with custard—in Paola's version, strawberry pudding is the star, and honey-flavored whipped cream finishes it all off.

"Think about baklava, lemony syrup, and delicious pudding," she says.

The end result is the perfect dessert to enjoy this early summer while strawberries are plentiful. Read on for Paola's step-by-step method and follow along with the video above.

Start with the Kataifi

Take the kataifi and arrange it into a single layer in your nine-inch square baking pan, ensuring it's spread out into all four corners. Then, pour the melted butter on top and gently toss to ensure all of the kataifi is coated. Be sure to spread it back into an even layer afterwards, packing it down a bit, and then throw it in a preheated 350°F-oven. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the kataifi is crispy and has turned a beautiful golden-brown color.

Make the Syrup…

Next up is the lemon syrup, which calls for granulated sugar, water, cinnamon sticks—Paola uses soft Ceylon cinnamon in the video, but she says any cinnamon stick will work (just not the powdered version!)—lemon zest, and lemon juice. Combine it all in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and let the mixture simmer. To see if it's done, coat the back of a metal spoon with the syrup and check for sugar crystals. If they aren't fully dissolved, you need a little more time.

…and Drizzle it on the Kataifi

Once the kataifi is done, take it out of the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. If any of it has pulled away from the edges of the pan, push it back so it covers the whole surface. Then, take the syrup and pour it evenly over the top, allowing the kataifi to cool until it reaches room temperature.

The Main Event: Strawberry Pudding

With the kataifi all set, it's time to make the pudding. You'll need whole milk, gelatin (Paola uses sheets in the video, but you can substitute unsweetened gelatin powder), the strawberries, cornstarch, granulated sugar, salt, heavy cream, egg yolks, and vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. Paola has a few tricks to ensure a gorgeous pudding, from making a slurry with some of the heavy cream, milk, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in order to avoid clumps to tempering the egg yolks with some of the hot cream mixture to prevent them from scrambling. She also uses a little bit of food coloring to tint the pudding a vibrant pink.

Strawberry Ekmek
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Pour and Chill

Take the completed strawberry pudding and pour it over the kataifi, using a spatula to smooth the surface and spread it evenly to the edges. Be sure to cover the surface with plastic wrap so a skin doesn't form on top—let it sit in the fridge overnight so the pudding sets.

Last But Certainly Not Least—The Whipped Cream

To add an extra-special touch to this dessert, Paola makes honey whipped cream. All you need is chilled heavy cream, powdered sugar, and honey—with an electric mixer (or an immersion blender, just like with the icebox cake), beat until stiff peaks form. Then, grab a slice of the Ekmek Kataifi and top it with a generous dollop and some fresh strawberries.

Come back next week for episode three of Pastries with Paola featuring Cornbread Tres Leches Cake.

Paola's Gear Picks

01 of 05

Bronx Native "X Marks The Spot" T-Shirt

Bronx Native t-shirt
Courtesy of Bronx Native

To buy: $40 at bronxnativeshop.com

02 of 05

The Peralta Project Hats

Peralta Project Hats
Courtesy of The Peralta Project

To buy: $25 at peraltaproject.com

03 of 05

Wilton Rose Icing Color

Wilton Rose Icing Color Food Coloring
Courtesy of Wilton

To buy: $2 at wilton.com and various prices at amazon.com

04 of 05

Taylor & Colledge Organic Vanilla Bean Paste with Seeds

Taylor & Colledge Organic Vanilla Bean Paste with Seeds
Courtesy of Amazon

To buy: $14 at amazon.com

05 of 05

Cinnamon Tree Organics Single-Origin Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks from Sri Lanka

Cinnamon Tree Organics Single-origin Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks
Courtesy of Cinnamon Tree Organics

To buy: $9 (1.5-ounce) at cinnamontreeorganics.com

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