There's nothing like eating food you grew up with to remind you of home. I was only really introduced to Greek desserts when I met my husband but I have grown to love the sweetness and simplicity of Greek sweets. He craves these sweet delights frequently and I have been challenged to make them just like his mother does.
Acquiring a good Greek desserts recipe book was therefore a priority during our courtship. I became familiar with Vefa Alexiadou on Greek morning television and realised that she was to Greece what Martha Stewart is to America or Delia Smith is to Britain. I have tried her recipes for over a decade now and am always pleased with the results.
Galaktoboureko is a deliciously sweet and comforting treat. It consists of a custard layer sandwiched between layers of buttered phyllo sheets and soaked in a lemony syrup after baking. My mother-in-law always makes this for us whenever we visit her in Greece. It is one of my husband's favourite desserts.
It is made in a large Pyrex rectangular glass tray and is ideal for dinner parties, although my husband is quite comfortable eating the whole trayful over a few days!
There are just a few basic ingredients needed. The custard is smooth and creamy, every mouthful a delightfully comforting experience within the syrupy phyllo pastry.
I have cut the galaktoboureko into a circular piece here for a modern presentation of a very traditional Greek dessert. My husband's only complaint about this is that his favourite piece is η γωνία (the corner piece)!
You will need:
- 4 cups milk
- 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon fine semolina
- 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- 1 box ready made phyllo pastry
- 1/2 cup hot melted unsalted butter
For the syrup:
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Boil the milk and cool slightly.
Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer till light and creamy.
Add the semolina and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Transfer the mixture into a large heavy based saucepan. Stirring constantly pour in the hot milk. Cook the mixture stirring, over low heat, to maintain a smooth textured cream, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the flavouring and 4 tablespoons of the butter.
Grease a large rectangular glass Pyrex dish. Place one phyllo sheet at a time over the base of the pan, buttering each one with melted butter. Use half the number of phyllo sheets (usually about seven).
Then pour in the custard and spread it evenly over the pastry.
Continue placing the remaining seven phyllo sheets on top of the custard, brushing each one with the melted butter. Brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle with some drops of warm water to prevent the phyllo from curling up while baking.
Bake in a 180º C pre-heated oven for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake for about 35 minutes longer until the top is golden brown.
To make the syrup, put the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 7 minutes. Ladle the syrup slowly over the pastry as soon as you remove it from the oven.
Allow it to absorb the syrup and cool slightly.
Cut the galaktoboureko in pieces and serve warm or cold. Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator.