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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Greek /Mediterranean Kataifi Bird Nests

I love this pastry, it is Mediterranean pastry made with a special form of shredded dough which is also called kataifi. Most forms of kataifi are sweets, typically with nuts and honey which make them flavorful, crunchy, and very sweet.

You can find them at Greek or Middle Eastern stores or restaurants.  You can make them in to small cylinder like 3" rolls, or squares, I made them like small nest roll filled with nuts and I also tried out the squares which came out pretty good too and somewhat are easier to make than the bird nest.

Pictures that you see here are of double recipe, I doubled all the ingredients.


• 1 pound of kataifi dough, defrosted per package instructions

• 1/2 pound of butter, melted

For the filling:

• 1 cup unsalted pistachios coarsely chopped

• 1 cup of walnuts, coarsely chopped

• 1 cup of almonds, coarsely ground

• 1 cup of unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped

• ¼ cup of fine granulated sugar

• ¼ cup of brown sugar

• ½ cup of orange marmalade

• ¼ cup of Honey

• 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

• ½ teaspoon of ground cloves

• 1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds ground

• 1 tablespoon of brandy or red wine

• Some extra pistachios for garnish

For the syrup:

• 3 cups of sugar

• 2 1/2 cups of water

• 5 table spoon of lemon juice

• 2 table spoon of thin strip of orange peels

• 8 whole cloves

• 4 sticks of 2” cinnamon

• 1/2 cup of thin honey

• 10 drops of Rose essence (optional)



* In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and blend well with a wooden spoon.


* Heat the water in a saucepan over low heat.

* Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

* Add the lemon juice, orange peels, and cloves, cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil.

* Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

* Stir in the honey.

* Remove from the heat, strain, and set aside to cool.

* Once it is cool add drops of rose essence. Keep it aside.

How to Prepare the pastry with Kataifi dough:

* This dough comes commercially packaged in a long strip, about 3 inches wide in 16 oz box, I double the recipe and made the Kataifi out of 2 pounds of dough. It looks like fine white hair strands twisted in figure eight manner.

* To prepare it for this recipe, undo the figure eight twist and lay the long strip out on a parchment paper and have the melted butter with pastry brush, a wet cloth and the baking sheet next to it.

* Divide it into 18-24 pieces, gently spreading the strands out a bit if they clump together.

* Based of how long of the roll you want, divide the dough in that size strips.

* I chose to make very small rolls, like a bird nest shape.

* Brush butter on strip while working with the dough.

* Each piece will be used to create an individual kataïfi roll.

* Keep unused dough covered a damp towel on top of that to keep it from drying out.

* Brush a strip with melted butter.

* Place a tablespoon of the filling at one end of the strip and roll up into a
cylinder, or small roll like I did, tucking in any stray pieces of dough.

* Take care to roll the pastry tightly so that the filling is securely enclosed.

* Place the rolls seam side down in a lightly buttered baking dish, close together but not squashed, and brush well with remaining butter.

Believe me when you first open the box, you will say, how the heck I am going to work with this…. It does get easier. make sure you are not going to do anything else, because once you start this process you have to finish.

One box makes about 18-25 pieces of pastry depending on the size of rolls you make.

Since I doubled the recipe, I made the pastries in shape of small rolls until the baking sheet was full.

For the remainder of the dough and nuts I just took a 8x8 pan, greased it with butter and divided the remaining dough in to half and on the bottom of the pan spread this half and then I put all the nut mix on it and pressed it followed by the remainder of the dough and pressed the dough evenly. Brushed it with butter.

However, I did bake the sheet or rolls and one with 8x8 pan separately.

Also if you don't want to fuss with individual roll you can make few big rolls with nut filling inside, bake them then pour the syrup and cut them in to slices when they are soaked with syrup and cold.

Baking the pastry:

* Preheat oven to 350F.

* Bake the rolls for 60 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy looking. (The 8x 8 pan took only 35 min to bake)

* Remove from oven, pour cool syrup over the hot pastry and cover with a clean towel.

* Let it cool about 3-4 hours as it absorbs the syrup.

* Roast the pistachio nut of a frying pan, crush them and sprinkle them on the pasty rolls for garnish.

Recipe modified by Surekha from a recipe at

Photographs by Surekha.

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