Kadayif is a halfway-homemade dessert that anybody can make! This recipe starts with a store-bought package of finely shredded phyllo dough, and all you have to do is stuff or roll it in any way that you like! If you’re in a rush, you can skip rolling it and instead layer it in a pan and slice it into squares right before serving. Kadayif has the most wonderful combination of textures: a crispy top, a soft and chewy center studded with roasted nuts, and a syrup-soaked bottom.
Our recipe calls for a whole package of kadayif, but you can always cut the recipe in half and store the leftover kadayif in the freezer. Look for kadayif in Albanian, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern stores. Kadayif is commonly made with walnuts and pistachios, but you can use any of your favorite nuts in this dessert.
· 2 cups crushed nuts
· ½ cup crushed tea cookies
· 2 T sugar
· 1 T vanilla extract
· 1 pack of kadayif (around 1 pound)
· 1 cup melted ghee, divided
For the syrup:
· 3 cups sugar
· 3 cups water
· 1 t lemon zest (optional)
· 1 t lemon juice
· 1 T vanilla extract
1. In a small bowl, stir together the nuts, crushed cookies, sugar, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of the ghee.
2. Remove the kadayif dough from the packages, and gently pull apart the strands of dough. Place the dough in a large bowl.
3. Now it is time to decide how you wish to shape your kadayif. You can roll them into balls, cylinders, or arrange the dough and filling in flat layers in your baking pan.
For a flat, layered kadayif, spread half of the shredded phyllo on the bottom of a buttered baking pan. Cover the phyllo with all of the nut mixture, then finish with a final layer of the remaining phyllo.
For a cylindrical shape, spread a layer of phyllo in the palm of your hand or on a cutting board. Place a spoonful of the nut filling in the center, then roll up the phyllo around the nuts. Place your kadayif in rows in a buttered baking pan.
4. Drizzle the remaining ghee all over the kadayif, and bake it in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown.
5. While your phyllo is baking, prepare the sugar syrup. Mix all of the syrup ingredients in a saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the contents to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and let the syrup simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the finished syrup from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
6. When your kadayif is finished baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan. You want your syrup and kadayif to still be warm, but not hot. Pour the warm syrup evenly over all of the kadayif. Let it rest for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, before serving. Decorate with an extra sprinkle of crushed nuts on top, if desired, slice, and serve!
Note: You can skip adding lemon zest to the syrup, but we highly recommend adding it. The added lemon-y kick provides a nice balance in this sweet dessert, and it has the added benefit of keeping the syrup from crystallizing.