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Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups

Have you ever eaten kataifi? It’s a shredded phyllo dough that’s available frozen in Greek or specialty food stores. Admittedly, it’s not easy to find, so if you can’t locate it near you, use regular phyllo dough instead.

I’ve been wanting to cook with kataifi for a long time and I finally took the plunge when a friend let me pick figs from her tree. The tartlet is stuffed with an almond flavored pastry cream and I served these as dessert at a dinner we attended last night. You could also switch things up and make this a savory appetizer, using a whipped, herbed ricotta or goat cheese instead of the pastry cream.

Kataifi is really simple to use, but slightly messy. Don’t worry about trying to be neat, because they have a certain charm with their little tendrils sticking every which way. Push the dough down into the tartlet tin, then drizzle with melted butter and bake.

They come out a nice golden color and look like pale bird nests.

Before the tartlets went into the oven, I cut the figs in half, drizzled with a little honey and roasted them on parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes, letting the flavors intensify.

The dessert is a cinch to put together before serving. Just place a dollop of the cream into each tartlet and top with a roasted fig. Drizzle a little more honey over each tartlet. You can make everything ahead of time and assemble before serving.

They pop in the mouth like candy, and deliver a great combination of flavors and textures – crunchy and soft. You’ll want to make a big platter of these because they disappear in a flash, if last night’s dinner party was any indication. There were two lonely tartlets left on the platter that nobody had the courage to grab. But the hostess assured me she was going to enjoy them after we had all left.

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Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 box kataifi shredded phyllo
  • melted butter (quantity depends on how much phyllo you use)
  • 3.4 oz. box vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • fresh figs (quantity depends on how many tartlets you make)
  • honey to drizzle
Instructions
  1. Take kataifi from freezer and let thaw in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Bring to room temperature.
  3. Place the figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and drizzle with honey.
  4. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove figs from oven, and lower temperature to 375 degrees.
  6. While figs are roasting, start making the kataifi cups.
  7. Working with a small amount at a time, take kataifi in your fingers and press and swirl to fit into small tartlet tins.
  8. When you're not working with it, keep the rest of the kataifi under a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.
  9. Drizzle a little melted butter on each tartlet.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden.
  11. Remove from oven and let rest on paper towels.
  12. Make the pudding according to package directions, but add 1 teaspoon of almond extract.
  13. Whip the heavy cream and fold into the pudding mixture.
  14. Place a dollop of the cream mixture and a roasted fig atop each tartlet.
  15. Drizzle with a little honey and decorate with a mint leaf, if desired.
 

 

Torta Della Nonna

Torta Della Nonna

 Torta della nonna is one of those iconic desserts that every Italian grandmother has in her repertoire. After all, it consists of not much more than two layers of pasta frolla with pastry cream in the middle and pine nuts on top. But put those simple ingredients together in a tart and suddenly it feels like Spring. Ok, so maybe the sounds of birds chirping outside my window has cheered me too. 

Pasta frolla is the basic pastry crust that’s used in a crostata, and includes egg, which changes it from the basic pie crust made in the U.S. But the torta della nonna I see in Italy seem to have some additional leavening also, so I added a little baking powder to give me the results I wanted. It becomes a dough that’s just a little bit puffy, but still firm too.
Make this in a tart pan with a removable bottom and serve with fresh fruit. If you really want to gild the lily, serve with freshly whipped cream — or be even more decadent and whip up a zabaglione.


P.S. This freezes well after it’s made, in the highly unlikely case you have any leftover.

Torta Della Nonna
printable recipe here

Pastry – pasta frolla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 or 3 T. ice water, if needed

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor, add the butter and mix until it looks like coarse sand. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the water) and mix only until it holds together. If it’s too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of cold water until the mixture comes together. Do not over mix or your dough will be tough. Bring together into a ball.

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
zest of one lemon (if you prefer not to use lemon, scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean into the milk or add 1/4 t. almond extract)
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Put the lemon zest and the milk into a large, heavy saucepan and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl or mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour and whisk until well combined.
Remove the lemon zest from the saucepan and slowly add the hot milk into the egg mixture, a tiny bit at a time. If you add them too quickly, you’ll scramble the eggs. Then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. If it gets lumpy, use a whisk, or even a hand-held stick blender to smooth it out.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, against the surface of the pastry cream, so it doesn’t develop a “skin.”Cool in refrigerator.

Other ingredients:
1/2 cup pine nuts (I use only those grown in the Mediterranean. DO NOT buy pine nuts from Asia or you risk getting pine nut syndrome.)
To assemble: Cut the dough in half and roll out one half into a disk shape. Fit it into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the pastry cream over the dough. Roll the second half of the dough into a disk and cover the pastry cream. Brush with a beaten egg that’s been mixed with a tablespoon of water. Sprinkle pine nuts on top and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 35 to 40 minutes until browned on top.
Note: You will have extra dough after trimming the tart. Don’t throw it out. Gather it into a ball and freeze for another use. I like to roll out the leftover dough into a small disk and freeze it that way. Then when I feel like making a one-shell tart quickly, I take it from the freezer, let it thaw, and add some jam, or ricotta mixed with sugar and chocolate chips, bake it and you have a quick dessert.