Category Archives: Galaktoboureko

Making Galaktoboureko

This may be a garden-variety sweet among the Greeks, but done well it sings like a siren from a Homeric poem. One taste and your friends and family will have to restrain you from diving bodily into the pan, from whence you might never return.

Made-from-scratch filo makes the whole project especially entertaining, but don’t feel obliged. Life is only so long. Note that you’ll need both more sheets of filo and more syrup if you’re using store-bought, since it’s both thinner and more absorbent. Start with the filling. Combine your milk, zest, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Set than on medium-high heat.

Meanwhile prepare your egg mixture. Combine the whole eggs and yolks in a large bowl.

Wreck’em, then add the cornstarch and Cream of Wheat.

Whisk that together until it’s thick.

When the milk comes to a rolling boil, pour about a third of it into the egg mixture.

Whisk that right away.

Then add another third.

Whisk that in, then pour everything from the bowl back into the saucepan. Much like pastry cream, no?

Really it’s like ultra-rich hot cereal. Wow, that’s good.

Now add your butter pieces and, again, whisk.

Pour the whole mess into a sheet pan, cover it with plastic wrap and let it cool completely.

When you’re ready to build, butter a 9″ x 12″ baking pan (casserole) liberally.

Lay in a sheet of filo.

Butter that.

Add another, butter that, you get the idea. Use four sheets or so if you’re using homemade filo, more like six if you’re using store bought.

Trim the overhang, leaving a good one-inch lip (or slightly more).

Spread in your cooled custard/porridge.

Then get back to the filo-butter business. You know how this works. Lay on a sheet…


…another sheet. Four or five will again suffice with homemade dough. Six or eight for store bought.

Again trim off the overage. Then with a butter knife gently tuck the overhanging dough down along the edges.

Again with the butter. You want that pastry crispy, right?

Now score the top into whatever size pieces you like. Try to cut only about half way through the pastry.

Spritz on a little water for crunch, then bake the pastry in a pre-heated 375 oven for 50 minutes to an hour. You want it nice and brown.

When the pastry is out of the oven for ten minutes, add the first of the syrup. This here is just a little too much…but I was trying to get a good action shot. Wait until it’s absorbed before you add more. Don’t drown it. Just add as much as it will soak up. You’ll apply syrup 3-4 times, but may not use it all.

It’ll look about like this:

You can slice and serve this right away, but it’ll taste better the following day having chilled all night in the fridge.

Serve it with a dusting of cinnamon. Normally I don’t get weird about details like spices, but I have to say that just-grated cinnamon takes the dessert to another level. You can make a show of it at the table like the wait staff at The Parthenon in Chicago. Something about all those extra aromas really makes this dessert shine. Opa!

Filed under:  Galaktoboureko, Pastry | 14 Comments

Galaktoboureko Recipe

Reader Lisa, a pastry student in Greece, was kind enough to forward this recipe along to me. I’ve made a few modifications to make it easier for home cooks here in the English-speaking world, I trust that won’t offend. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Syrup

1 recipe of heavy syrup, simmered with a fat strip of lemon zest, cooled, then 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract added. Make this the night before.

For the Custard

2 lbs. 3.25 ounces (1 quart plus 1/2 cup) whole milk
7.75 ounces (1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2.5 ounces (1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons) Cream of Wheat
.75 ounces (3 tablespoons) cornstarch (corn flour)
.75 ounces (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter

Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and yolks until well combined. Add the semolina and cornstarch to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.

When the milk mixture is at a rolling boil, pour a little into the egg mixture, whisk, then add more hot milk until you’ve added about 3/4 of the milk. Pour everything back into the saucepan. Continue whisking, taking care that the bottom doesn’t burn, until the custard reaches a low boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the butter and leave the custard to cool completely before using (better still, spread it in a shallow dish to help it cool faster). You may cover it with plastic wrap or paint on a little extra butter to prevent a skin from forming.

To Assemble

9 ounces filo sheets (about 14)
8 ounces butter (in Greece half of the butter is “galaktos” butter made with a mix of sheep and goat’s milk)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gently melt the butter and brush a 9″ x 12″ baking dish well. Put in the first sheet of fyllo, brush it well with butter, then the second, brushing well, until you have 7 sheets layered in. Be generous with the butter which is the only way for the fyllo to get nice and crispy (her words, not mine). Make sure the sides of the pan are covered so the custard won’t leak out.

Add in the custard and smooth the top. Then lay on the rest of the 7 sheets of filo, brushing them amply with butter as before. Gently tuck the filo sheets in along the sides to enclose the custard. Score the surface in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife. Spritz the top with water and bake it for 50 minutes. Do not remove from the oven unless it has a deeeeep golden (almost brown) color.

Remove the pastry from the oven and let it sit for 1-2 minutes before you start applying the syrup. Use a ladle to pour enough cold syrup over the whole surface of the hot galaktompoureko, but not so much that you “drown it”.

Allow the pastry to absorb the syrup before applying more. Continue on in this way until the pastry can’t absorb any more (know this point by checking the sides, they should be wet when you pull them away from the walls of the dish). You may not need all the syrup.

Allow the finished galaktoboureko to cool. It may be eaten immediately dusted with cinnamon, but it is even better the next day. Store it in the refrigerator.

Filed under:  Galaktoboureko, Pastry | 12 Comments