Bougatsa – Greek Custard Pastries

A cup of Greek coffee and Greek sweets is always a good idea.

If you’ve never heard of bougatsa before, it’s a sweet custard individually wrapped in phyllo dough. It’s very similar to my favorite Greek dessert, galaktoboureko, except you cover the bougatsa with powdered sugar not syrup and they are bite sized.

As a friendly heads up, I think that these are a pain to make. You know that I like to keep it real for you guys. There is nothing difficult about this recipe, in fact it’s quite easy. However, I despise working with phyllo dough because it’s so finicky. The longer it sits out, the more dry it gets, which means it breaks and makes it difficult to roll up the custard. Basically you have to work quickly, but rolling each one up isn’t really something you can do fast.

This recipe calls for a lot of melted butter. A lot. If you use the microwave to melt the butter like I did then don’t make the same mistake of heating it for too long and get a melted butter explosion. “Buttersplosion” as my husband called it as he was attempting to figure out why I had covered the whole kitchen in butter. So why go through the frustrations? It’s worth it.

The moment you take a bite of crispy phyllo and creamy sweet custard, you are in heaven and you forget about all the trials and tribulations while making them. I’m not being dramatic. (Well, maybe I am. 😉 ) Any imperfections from the struggles of phyllo rolling are covered by the powdered sugar. Some say I sprinkled to much powdered sugar on top, but I love the stuff so maybe you can’t go by me. I had powdered sugar all over the kitchen counters, floor, and myself. How? Who knows. I’m not a messy baker by any means, but by the end of making these bougatsa, I had a kitchen decorated in melted butter and powdered sugar. It really seemed like some sort of cheesy scene from a Hallmark Channel movie. I’d still make them again though.

You can eat these hot, room temperature, or even cold, so they are great to make ahead of time. If you eat them cold then the phyllo dough will not be crispy. My family ate them cold and had no objections. I like them better warm because I like crispy phyllo so I prefer eating them on the day I made them or warming the leftovers in the oven for a few minutes.

Bougatsa – Greek Custard Pastries Recipe
(Makes about 36)

Note: If your phyllo dough is in the freezer, then move it to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make bougatsa. Then take the phyllo dough out of the refrigerator 1 – 2 hours prior to rolling the bougatsa. This will help avoid/minimize breaking the phyllo when you go to unroll it from the package.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 stick of butter (equivalent to 4 tablespoons) plus 3/4 stick of butter (equivalent to 6 tablespoons), divided per the directions
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 32 ounces milk (1 quart) (I used 2%.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semolina
  • 1/2 pound phyllo dough
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs.  Set this bowl aside.
  2. In a pot, over Medium/High heat, melt 1/2 stick of butter.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the granulated sugar and mix until combined.
  4. Add in the milk, stirring constantly. (I like to use room temperature milk so that making the custard doesn’t take as long, but this is not required.)
  5. Add in the vanilla extract. Keep stirring constantly.
  6. Add in the semolina. Don’t stop stirring constantly. I recommend using a whisk at this point because it helps to create a smoother custard. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. Slowly add in the beaten eggs (don’t pour too fast because you don’t want to cook the eggs). Stir constantly until the custard thickens. Once it’s done, remove it from the heat.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set it aside.
  9. Melt 3/4 stick of butter. If you do it in the microwave, do so carefully, and slowly, stirring often. No more than 15 seconds of heating at a time.
  10. Unroll the package of phyllo dough. Cut the pile of phyllo sheets in half, lengthwise. (The phyllo that I buy from the store is about 8×13 inches, so each sheet is about 4 inches wide after I’ve cut it. If you’re phyllo sheets are a little bit bigger or smaller then don’t worry because I don’t think it matters.)
  11. For each bougatsa:
    1. Place a cut sheet of phyllo dough onto your work surface.
    2. Brush some melted butter onto the phyllo.
    3. Scoop about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the custard onto one end of the phyllo sheet, in the middle, leaving about an inch or so from each edge. I use the OXO good grips medium cookie scoop.
    4. Fold the bottom edge of the phyllo sheet on top of the custard.
    5. Then fold in the sides of the phyllo sheet, about a 1/2 inch in. (See picture above for guidance.)
    6. Then roll it up, starting with the custard end.
    7. Place the bougatsa on the prepared baking sheet with the seam on the bottom (so that it doesn’t unroll).
    8. Brush some melted butter on top of the bougatsa.
  12. Repeat step #11 until you run out of the custard or phyllo dough.
  13. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Mine took 25 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the bougatsa prior to serving.

Slightly adapted from: Mia Kouppa

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