Our row house on Steinway Street and Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria, Queens, New York, was a happening place. Shortly after we arrived in our neighborhood, we wanted to get acquainted with those around us. We wandered across the street and introduced ourselves to a Greek woman who ran the Victory Sweet Shop. Having tried only baklava before, she selected several of her specialties for us to try. She tied the bakery box with blue and white, thin, cord and such pride. As she handed it to us, in broken English, she admonished us to have them with coffee. We are not coffee drinkers, but we do enjoy herbal tea. Later that evening, (it was snowy January), we sampled her delicate treats and I instantly fell in love with Galaktoboureko! I planned to only have one bite and ended up polishing it off! It is a Greek pastry with a flaky top and bottom filled with custard and covered with a sweet syrup.
Shopping: Be sure to purchase Fillo (Phyllo Dough), easy to use pastry sheets. It's different from puff pastry sheets. Plan to use 1/2 pound of sheets, or half the 1 pound box.
Preparation: For the custard filling you will need whole milk, farina or Cream of Wheat, butter, vanilla and eggs.
While the custard mixture cools, you will layer fillo sheets, brushing each with butter. Ten for the bottom and ten for the top.
To keep the sheets from drying out you'll need to quickly remove one and then keep them covered with a damp towel.
This is how the pan looks with 10 sheets covering the bottom of a 9x13 non-stick pan.
Baking: Next pour the cooled custard filling into the pan and add 10 more sheets of buttered fillo sheets. Score the top of the pastry into 16 to 24 squares or diamond shapes. Pop into a 350 degree oven to bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
Begin the simple syrup. I like my citrusy! Let it simmer while the pastry bakes.
When the pastry is golden brown and the custard is set, remove from the oven, and let it set for 5 minutes.
Strain your syrup and then pour the hot syrup over the pastry. As it cools the syrup will be absorbed.
A lovely Greek Pastry, Galaktoboureko, on flowery, Spring, china. Serve it along with your favorite warm beverage...maybe a little herbal tea party is in store after a long winter!
Galaktoboureko (Greek Pastry)
Makes 16 to 24 servings
Thaw 1/2 pound of fillo dough in the refrigerator overnight.
In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of whole milk to a simmer. Whisk into the hot milk, 3/4 cup of Cream of Wheat. Stir constantly until thickened. Remove from the heat. Whisk three eggs in a small bowl. Add 1 cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk together thoroughly. Add egg mixture back into the pan and then quickly whisk in 1 stick of butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 4 more beaten eggs. Set mixture aside to cool.
Layer 1/2 of the fillo sheets, about 10 sheets, into a 9x13" pan, brushing each layer with butter.
Add the creamy cooled custard mixture. Spread evenly with the back of a wooden spoon. Layer remaining fillo sheets on top of the custard mixture. It is somewhat challenging with the first few layers, but gently layer each with butter. Continue until all the sheets are used, about 10 more.
Chill the prepared pan of custard and fillo in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. When the top has hardened score it (very carefully) with a knife in square or diamond pattern. Place the pan in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden brown.
While the custard is baking boil together until a medium syrup consistency:
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup water
1 stick of cinnamon
juice of one fresh lemon
1 whole orange rind
Set syrup mixture aside to cool. When you remove your pastry from the oven, let it cool for five minutes. Then pour the warm syrup over the warm syrup. Refrigerate any leftovers uncovered to keep pastry crisp.
Opa, my friends!