A syrupy custard pie "Galaktoboureko" is a traditional Greek dessert. Made with phyllo pastry, filled with a semolina cream, and soaked in syrup. It's a dessert made to amaze. In Greece, it's as famous as Baklava which I'm sure you are already familiar with.
If you are not familiar with semolina let me tell you what it is. Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of wheat. It's used mostly in pasta making, but in various desserts also. Especially in Eastern countries. If you are wondering how it tastes, it's almost identical in flavor to wheat baby food. Yeap, it's pretty yummy.
See my other recipes using semolina:
- Greek Baked Apples Stuffed With A Fluffy Custard Cream
- Traditional Greek Honey Cookies (Melomakarona)
- Semolina Pudding
How To Make Galaktoboureko
All you need to pay attention to make the best Galaktoboureko is:
- The syrup has to be nicely thickened and cooled when poured over the hot pie.
- The pie should be baked until the filo is super crispy.
- Grease each filo layer very well with butter so it bakes properly and gets crispy.
- Do not stir syrup while it cooks to avoid the formation of sugar crystals.
So to make Galaktoboureko, first make the syrup inside a saucepan. Do not use a wide one as the sugar will sit on the edges of the pot and won't dissolve. And now you would think, but I can stir that sugar. But that's a no-no when making syrup. The only time you can stir syrup is before it cooks. Once the syrup is starting to simmer you cannot stir it anymore as this may lead to the syrup getting crystallized.
Cook the syrup over medium-low heat for about 6-7 minutes. For the sugar to dissolve properly on its own. Then set the saucepan aside and proceed on making the pie filling.
The Galaktoboureko Filling
The filling for Galaktoboureko is made with semolina cream. Semolina cream is much more flavorful and thicker than any other cream. It has a nice fluffy texture while it's still warm and gets firmer when cooled.
Except for the fine semolina, other ingredients to make the cream filling for Galaktoboureko are milk, sugar, eggs, rice flour. And flavorings like vanilla extract (though most people in Greece use old-fashioned Vanilla powder), and lemon zest.
To make the filling for Galaktoboureko you heat the milk with sugar and flavorings. Meanwhile, you beat the eggs in a separate bowl and mix in the rice flour. Once the milk is steamy hot, you slowly pour it into the eggs while whisking the eggs vigorously with a hand whisk.
Once ⅔ of the milk is incorporated into the eggs, you pour everything back to the pot. Add the semolina in slowly and cook for 2 minutes more from the time the cream starts to bubble.
As For The Filo...
Two things to keep in mind when working with filo:
- Add frozen package of filo in the fridge to slowly unfreeze overnight.
- Keep it covered with a tea towel while you work it (e.g. after removing each sheet of filo) so it won't air-dry.
For this sweet pie, you need 7 sheets of filo to make the base and the remaining sheets are used to create the top. To make the base you place each sheet, so half of it covers the bottom of the pan, and half of it hangs out of the pan. The cream is added and then the remaining filo sheets are placed on top. The edges of the sheets that are left to hang out of the pan are overlapped on top to create a real crunchy, crispy pie topping.
I like to give a ruffled look to the filo on the top of the pie as the filo gets crispier this way. See my Bougatsa recipe for example.
You can place the filo flat on top though if you prefer that look. Also, for this recipe, I use a round 31cm (12-inch) pan. For the same reason, that the filo gets more crunchy, as you get more concentrated filo on top. With this pan, you get 16 hearty pieces.
You can use a square pan instead though. The squared pan option is more helpful if you want to cut the pie into small square pieces. Use a square pan that's about 32 x 25 cm (12.3 x 9.4 inches) You can see how to lay the filo in the squared pan in my Baklava recipe post. Again using 7 sheets at the bottom.
SERVE WARM OR COLD?
That really depends on your liking. Some people like it hot though we mostly eat it cold here in Greece. When it's still warm the filo is very very crunchy and the cream is softer and fluffier like in the pictures. When cold the cream gets firmer but the dessert is not that overwhelmingly sweet as when warm. So try it both ways and tell me your favorite!
Best Galaktoboureko Recipe Syrupy Custard Pie With Filo
For The Syrup:
- 800 grams (4 cups) sugar
- 500 ml water
- 1 orange peel
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice fresh
- 1 stick of cinnamon
For The Custard Filling:
For The Pie:
- 220 grams (2 sticks) butter melted
- 1 package (450 grams) filo pastry sheets unfreeze in the fridge overnight
Make The Syrup:
- The syrup needs to be cool at room temperature when added to the pie. So you make the syrup first and set it aside to cool while you make the pie.
- Add all of the ingredients for the syrup to a saucepan. Don't use one that's too wide as sugar tends to sit on the sides.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for about 6-7 minutes until syrup thickens. Do not stir the syrup let the sugar dissolve on its own. Turn the heat off and set the saucepan aside.
Make The Custard Filling:
- Add the milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest in a cooking pot and heat over medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl beat the eggs with a hand whisk. Mix in the rice flour. Place the bowl to sit on a dampened sponge cloth next to the cooking pot (this will help keep the bowl in place while stirring on the next step).
- Once the milk starts to get steamy hot, just before boiling point, turn the heat off. With a ladle, take spoonfuls of the hot milk and start pouring it, threadlike, into the eggs while whisking the eggs constantly with a hand whisk. Do this, until ⅔ of the hot milk is incorporated into the eggs. Then transfer the egg-milk mixture back into the cooking pot.
- Turn the heat back on to medium. Start adding the semolina in batches while stirring with the hand whisk. Once the cream starts to bubble stir constantly and cook for 2 minutes more. Turn the heat off and set the pot aside.
- Stir in the butter.
For The Pie:
- Preheat oven to 170°C/ 338°F.
- Lay open the stack of phyllo on your working surface. And cover it with a tea towel so it won't air-dry.
- Grease a 12-inch (31 cm) round baking pan with some of the melted butter.
- Take one filo sheet and place it in the pan so it covers its bottom. Half of the filo will be hanging out of the pan. This is going to be used to cover the cream on top.
- Add 7 more filo sheets in the same way all around to create the pie base. Grease each filo sheet lightly with butter using a pastry brush.
- Add the cream and spread it evenly with a spoon.
- Take the remaining phyllo sheets and place them on top of the cream again greasing each one with butter. Once you have used up all of the sheets start to overlap the filo edges over the pie giving a ruffled look. Drizzle with butter after overlapping each filo. As well as the top of the pie once finished. Butter is very important to help the filo cook properly. If by any chance you run out of butter melt a bit more or use some vegetable oil like sunflower or corn oil.
- Scar the top of the pie to 16 pizza-like pieces. Or if you would like smaller portions, cut to smaller squared pieces.
- Bake for about 50 minutes. The pie should get a deep golden color and look very crispy on top. It should also move inside the pan when you shake it. This means it has properly baked at the bottom as well. If the pie reaches the desired color before the time is up, then turn the heat to 150°C / 302°F and keep baking.
- Once the pie is baked, remove it from the oven and add the cooled syrup on top with a ladle.
- Let the pie sit for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Or let it cool down to room temperature and refrigerate for 6 hours to enjoy it cold. You may serve with some ground cinnamon, or whipping cream, or vanilla ice cream on top!
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