Even though not as well known as filo pastry, kataifi pastry (pronounced with evenly stressed syllables: ka-ta-if-ee), is also a very versatile pastry that is becoming more commonly used. With its origins argued over by the peoples of southern Europe, Asia Minor and the Middle East, many nationalities and cultures like to claim the origins of this type of pastry as their own.
To describe the pastry is to say that it looks like vermicelli when it is raw and like a shredded wheat breakfast cereal when it is cooked. Many people do in fact call it “shredded pastry.” The pastry is made from a batter that is poured through a container in which there are fine holes. The fine streams of batter flow onto a moving heated metal plate on which the pastry is dried/cooked briefly.
Traditionally it has been used for the making of sweets that are soaked in syrup, generally with a filling of a variety of nuts. Some traditional recipes call for the baking of the pastry while other recipes are designed for the pastry to be traditionally fried in clarified butter. As with filo pastry however many creative and new recipes have been developed for this pastry.
Kataifi Pastry Handling Tips
Allow kataifi pastry to thaw completely before opening the packet. Remove from the refrigerator a minimum of 2 hours before using.
The kataifi will be in a “ball” and should be pulled apart, separated and “fluffed up” by pulling the strands apart. Do not be scared to be quite vigorous when doing this as it will lead to better results.
Prepare all other ingredients before you remove the pastry from its plastic bag. Kataifi pastry will dry out if left exposed, so it is best to work quickly with the pastry, maybe even covering it with a slightly damp tea towel if required.
Unused kataifi pastry should be rolled up and SEALED TIGHTLY back into its plastic bag, placed back in the packet and returned to the refrigerator as soon as you have finished using it. ( If sealed this way the opened, unused filo pastry should last to the best before date printed on the packet. )
It is available from some independent supermarkets, delicatessens, large fruit markets and gourmet food stores, as well as Middle Eastern food shops
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To make your own, use thawed filo dough. Roll into a log and, using a sharp knife cut 3mm strips (the resulting pastry strips will be thicker than kataifi but will be a suitable substitute).
When making substitutions in baking and cooking, you may end up with a somewhat different product. The taste, moisture content, texture and weight of a product can be affected by changing ingredients.
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