This post almost didn’t happen. Galaktoboureko, or a creamy custard pastry, is my favorite Greek dessert of all time. It’s my husband’s favorite too. I figured it was high time to try to make it so I found a recipe, busted out the ingredients, and… well, let’s just say that the day ended in tears. (By the way, that one is NOT this recipe). I don’t know if I was more upset about throwing away most of the ingredients or all that time that I wasted. I called my husband and told him that I was so annoyed and that I would never try to make it again. Apparently, I give up easily sometimes. 😉
To my surprise, my husband came home with replacement ingredients and together we tried a new recipe (this recipe). He said, “We’re making this, we can do this, let’s go.” I could not be happier with the way it turned out!
This traditional Greek dessert is a creamy semolina custard baked in between layers of buttery filo dough.
Galaktoboureko (Greek Creamy Custard Pastry) Recipe
- 5 cups whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 4 egg yokes
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 cup fine semolina
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 15 sheets filo dough, room temperature
- syrup (recipe below)
Ingredients for Syrup:
- 4 and 1/2 cups water
- 2 and 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or 1/2 lemon)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Set it aside.
- In a large pot, over Medium heat, warm up the milk.
- Add the semolina to the milk, stirring constantly, until it thickens. (Be patient, this takes a while.)
- Turn off the heat and slowly add in the egg mixture (don’t pour too fast because you don’t want to cook the eggs).
- Stir in the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Cover it and set it aside.
- Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan.
- Lay 10 filo sheets, buttering in between each layer. (Please make sure that the filo dough is at room temperature.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Pour the custard on top.
- If any of the filo dough used for the bottom sticks up above the custard, fold it over the top of the custard. This commonly happens in the corners.
- Lay 5 filo sheets on top of the custard, buttering in between each layer. Tuck the corners of each layer so there is nothing hanging over the sides of the baking pan.
- Cut the top layer of filo into 12 pieces, being careful to only cut through the top layer of filo. (Poking the custard with the knife is okay, but don’t go too deep.)
- Drizzle any remaining melted butter into the cuts you just made.
- Spray a little bit of water on top to help prevent the filo from cracking while it cooks. (If you don’t have a spritzer, then sprinkle some on with your fingers).
- Bake it in the preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
- Let the pastry sit for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon stick from the syrup and pour the syrup over the pastry. Let the pastry sit for 4 to 5 hours before serving.
Directions for the Syrup:
- In a pot, over High heat, stir in the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon juice. Bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to Medium and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Stir in the honey.
- Set it aside to cool.
Adapted from: GreekRecipes.tv
Fair warning, this is not a healthy recipe by any means and it takes a really long time to make. All those layers of filo dough makes it super labor intensive. It will also likely be one of the best pastries that you’ve ever had!
I can say honestly say that this is not difficult to make, as long as the steps are clearly spelled out. If you are familiar with my blog then you know that I like to include step by step instructions and photos for recipes like this one (you know, the ones that appear to be intimidating but really aren’t, like this one). If you are at all interested in making this dessert, then I hope this part comes in handy. If you’re just here to look at some pretty pictures then enjoy!
Let’s start! In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar and set it aside. You’ll need this later for the custard filling. (I used the extra egg whites for a low fat omelette the next day.) Easy peezy.
For the custard filling, warm up the whole milk. (Yes, I’m sorry folks, you really should use whole milk for this one.) Make sure the milk is truly warm because you are actually cooking the semolina. Imagine raw flour in milk and then imagine how gross it would be. Add in the semolina and stir it constantly until it thickens. I assigned my husband this horrible task because “stir constantly” literally means “stir constantly, no cheating, no walking away, no multitasking.” This is not something some little old Greek lady made up, it’s actually required to avoid turning your custard into a lumpy mess. When it’s done, the semolina should be thick enough that it sticks to the wooden spoon like in the photo below.
Turn off the heat and slowly add in the egg mixture. If you add it too fast then you risk cooking the eggs and getting scrambled egg bits in your custard. (No, thanks.) Stir in the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Cover the pot and set it aside.
Get ready for a lot of butter here! Having some form of brush is very helpful for spreading the butter, but I suppose not strictly required. If you don’t have one, I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how to do without. Good luck. 🙂 Start by buttering a 9 x 13 baking pan. This helps to prevent the pastry from sticking to the baking dish.
Now a little tip about the temperature of the filo dough. I can’t stress this enough… make sure the filo dough is at room temperature. It’s commonly stored in the freezer (and in fact that’s likely where you’ll find it at your local grocery store). Filo is paper thin dough and is usually sold in a form where it’s all folded over on itself. Don’t try to unfold it while it is cold or frozen. It will break off in big useless chunks if it’s frozen or if it’s still cold it will tear into shreds. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here so please learn from my mistakes. 😉
Lay down 10 filo sheets, buttering in between each layer. Mmm, more butter. This forms the foundation for the custard. The “bottom crust” if you will.
Are you still with me? Pour the custard on top. You can see that the egg mixture turned the cooked semolina into a lovely golden yellow color. See those filo corners sticking up there? If your pan and your filo dough aren’t a perfect size match (and they never will be) you are likely to have “tails” sticking out. Simply fold them over on top of the custard as well as you can to keep them from burning off while you bake it.
Lay 5 filo sheets on top of the custard, buttering in between each layer. Remember all that folding of extra filo dough from a minute ago? Well keep doing that here too. There is no fancy trick to this step. Basically, to reiterate, you don’t want filo corners to burn so lay them down.
Pre-cut the pastry into 12 pieces, being careful to only cut through the top layer of filo. If you try to cut the top crust after it’s been baked you will likely end up with large sheets of toasty filo dough flying all over your kitchen. These cuts being made while it is still uncooked helps prevent that.
Drizzle the remaining melted butter on top of the cracks of the pieces that you just cut. Then spray a little bit of water on top of the entire pastry. (Again to help reduce flying filo dough.) This will also help prevent the filo from cracking while it cooks. (Bonus!) Please just use a very little bit of water… spritz, spritz, spritz… that’s it. You will be making it into a lake of syrup later, so go easy on the water here. Now it’s finally time to bake it! Phew. You’re in the home stretch now.
While the pastry is baking I prepared the syrup. It’s basically a simple syrup but more tasty. In fact, you should start making it right as the pastry goes in the oven because the syrup should be cool when you use it. It also gives it a little more time to soak delicious cinnamon flavor out of the stick that’s floating around in it.
Once the pastry is done cooking, let it sit for about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick from the syrup and pour it over the pastry. The pastry will look like it’s sitting in a pool of liquid. There is a very good reason for that… it is. It will soak down into the filo and a little bit into the custard which is why it’s very important to let the pastry sit for 4 to 5 hours before serving. Wow, that long?! I did warn you that this was a lengthy process. 😉 But look at this beauty! Looking at the finished product, I almost instantly forgot how long it took me to prepare it (almost).
I’m in love with that dreamy layer of custard. I bet that there are similar desserts from other cultures and I’d love to hear about them from you.
The top layer of filo is so flaky, which is a nice compliment to the creamy custard. Mmm, filo dough. It just melts in your mouth. 🙂
This is an authentic Greek dessert at its finest.
It’s not something that you make everyday (seriously, you see how long it takes) so I pulled out the fancy plates. The table runner is from the island of Crete in Greece for extra Greek flair. I bought it there when my husband and I visited a few years ago. I love handmade stuff like this! And it’s great to remensice from our journeys.
Galaktoboureko… how do you say that? Gah-lahk-toh-BOO-reh-koh. Try saying that 10 times fast. (Pretty sure even I can’t.) I’m half Greek, from my mom’s side. My dad is Italian. He calls this got-to-go-booty-go. Lol! He knows how to really say it, and unfortunately he was the one that taught my husband how to say it, so now they both get it intentionally wrong. Call this whatever you want, but it’s deeeee-licious and that’s all that counts. 🙂
I’m super thankful that my husband encouraged me to try another recipe. (Although I suspect his intentions may have been a bit selfish since he adores this dessert.) Now I have fond memories of us making our favorite Greek dessert together. 🙂