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Kitchen Mailbox: Armenian pastry a sweet 'n' easy treat

Thursday, September 09, 1999

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Over the years we've tested hundreds of desserts -- cakes, cheesecakes, doughnuts and variations of all of these. You name it, we've tested it Today we present something we've never tried before: Armenian Tell Kadayif (ka-da-eef or ka-da-ifi).

Armenian Tell Kadayif, is, for lack of a better word, a pastry -- a very sweet pastry. The main ingredients are butter, nuts, sugar and the pastry dough kataifi. Kataifi is dough that's shredded in needle-thin strands. It resembles shredded wheat, which is what is used in the second recipe.

Armenian Tell Kadayif is surprisingly easy to prepare and the kataifi dough was not difficult to handle. The dough comes frozen -- in order to make the dough pliable we let it defrost for about 40 minutes. While the dough was defrosting, we made the syrup (the syrup had to cool somewhat before using), and if you need to chop your nuts, do so at this time while melting the butter.

With all the preparation work out of the way, you're ready to assemble the Tell Kadayif. One last note: As we said, the kataifi dough was easy to handle, but use a gentle hand.

The second recipe, Imitation Armenian Tell Kadayif, is almost identical to the first recipe, except you're replacing the kataifi dough with shredded wheat, the breakfast cereal..

We were pleased with the way both recipes turned out. As we said, Tell Kadayif is sweet, but not too sweet that we didn't have a second helping.

A.J. Bush of Penn Hills requested this recipe. Armenian Tell Kadayif was sent in by Laurie Ann Stepanian of Butler.

Armenian Tell Kadayif

Syrup:

4 cups sugar
3 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice (we used fresh)
2 pounds kataifi, see note
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 pound butter, melted

Boil water and sugar 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and cool.

Loosen the shreds of kataifi, removing coarse particles. Spread half of the dough in a buttered 10-by-14-inch pan.

Mix nuts, cinnamon and sugar and spread over the kataifi. Top with remaining kadayif. Pour hot melted butter evenly over dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (or until golden brown). Pour 6 cups of the cooled syrup over the hot kadayif with a soup ladle, reserving 1 cup syrup for later. Cover kadayif and let it moisten in its own steam for 1/2 hour. Cut in squares and serve. May be served with whipped cream. Sprinkle with saved syrup.

Note: We found the kataifi dough in the freezer section of Stamoolis' Market in The Strip. It comes in a 1-pound box. It's marked kataifi, shredded pastry dough.

Imitation Armenian Tell Kadayif

Syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 box full-sized shredded wheat
2 cups milk
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound butter

Boil sugar and water 10 minutes; add lemon juice; cool.

Dip each roll of shredded wheat lightly into the cold milk, one by one, and put them on a towel to drain.

Mix nuts, cinnamon and sugar. Open the centers of the rolls with a spoon and fill with the nut mixture. Place in a buttered baking pan and put a dab of butter on each roll, or pour a spoonful of melted butter on each, and bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. As soon as they are baked, pour the cold syrup over the rolls, cover and let stand until cool. May be served with whipped cream. Makes 12 servings.

Yet another version of this Armenian dessert -- which we did not test -- replaces the nut filling with 2 pounds ricotta cheese (well drained).

After putting the first layer of kataifi in the buttered pan, spoon the ricotta cheese evenly on it and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon. Place the other half of the katiafi on top and press down gently.

Continue as before: bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour. For this recipe, pour the warm syrup on it as soon as it is taken from the oven.


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.



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