Weekend Treats: Galaktoboureko

Long Lunch 06/07/2018
Photo: Anna Polyviou

Galaktoboureko by Anna Polyviou:

This is my favourite Greek dessert: one of those things that taste better straight out of the oven with syrup poured over. My mother would always tell me off for attacking the tray before it had cooled down. This recipe is completely Mum’s: I haven’t adjusted it nor have I added my French training. This is what I grew up with and I want you to experience a little part of me too. You’ll come across loads of different recipes for this dish, but in my eyes this is the perfect way — Mum’s way.

Serves 20

Ingredients:
600 ml (21 fl oz) milk
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (from the supermarket)
2 eggs
70 g (2½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
125 g (4½ oz) fine semolina
25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
375 g (13 oz) packet frozen filo pastry (about 20 sheets)
400 g (14 oz) unsalted butter, melted

Syrup:
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves
juice of 1 lemon

Method:
Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan with 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) of cold water and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Refrigerate the syrup until completely cool. The syrup is best made the day before so that it is really cold when you pour it onto the hot galaktoboureko.

Put the milk into a medium saucepan with the vanilla sugar and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until pale in colour and well combined. Add the semolina to the egg mixture and continue whisking until well combined.

When the milk has come to the boil, add the semolina mixture. Whisk for a further 5 minutes over medium heat until the mixture has thickened.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon zest. Set aside at room temperature until needed.

Preheat the oven to 165°C (320°F). Lay the filo sheets on a clean work surface, cover with a clean tea towel (dish towel) that has been slightly dampened with cold water. This is so the thin sheets of filo don’t dry out.

Lightly brush a deep-sided 20 x 30 x 4 cm (8 x 12 x 1½ inch) baking tray with melted butter.

Lay 1 sheet of filo in the base of the baking tray and brush with a little melted butter. Top with another filo sheet and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat with another 8 filo sheets and melted butter. Make sure that the filo sheets overhang the sides of the dish so it holds in the semolina custard.

Pour the semolina custard into the baking dish. Repeat the layering with the remaining filo sheets and the remaining melted butter.

Use a small sharp knife to score the top of the galaktoboureko into 20 rectangles. Brush with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle a little water over the top. Bake for 60 minutes or until golden.

While the dish is still hot, pour the cold syrup over it.

Mum's twist:
Make sure to cut the filo layers to shape before baking, but don’t cut right to the bottom: if it hasn’t been done before baking you won’t be able to do it after. When cooking the semolina custard, make sure you keep whisking so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the saucepan.

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