Galaktoboureko – Easier to make than it is to pronounce!

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What is this strange sounding pastry? It’s a milk and egg based custard held together by layers of buttered phyllo. What separates this Greek dessert from its French and Italian counterparts are two ingredients. Farina or semolina is added to the milk and eggs, giving it a slightly firmer texture, without losing the delicateness you’d expect from a pastry cream. The second ingredient is a simple syrup, which is poured over the pastry after coming out of the oven. You will need to taste this to fully understand the moistness this adds to this wonderful dessert.

We hear Crème Brûlée, profiteroles, and now I am introducing you to galaktoboureko—and we get intimidated. We’ve convinced ourselves that they are labor intensive or difficult to make. Let me assure you—they are not. Do not let the names fool you. If you can follow instructions, you can make any of these desserts.

Two days ago, it was my niece, Athena’s, twenty-first birthday. Three hours before I was to arrive at her party, I decided to make galaktoboureko. Using a 9×13 glass baking dish, I made one large pastry and cut it in squares. You can also make individual rolls by rolling the phyllo as you would an eggroll.

Custard

8 cups milk

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups farina

6 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

Pastry

1 pound phyllo

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Syrup

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 strips orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

In a pot, place milk, sugar, vanilla and farina. Stir until mix through. Add the beaten eggs and stir. Place over medium heat and simmer, constantly stirring. It will take a while for custard to thicken. Keep stirring. When the custard thickens, remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and mixed through. Place the custard in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Allow the custard to cool. You can put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the phyllo, but not for too long. Butter a 9×13 inch pan. Using half of the package of phyllo, butter each sheet with a pastry brush and place it in the pan. Keep layering the sheets until you have finished the first half of the phyllo. With a large spoon or ladle, add all the custard over the phyllo. Layer and butter the remaining phyllo—one sheet at a time on top of the custard. Brush the top with butter. Tuck in the edges of any overlapping phyllo. Score with a sharp knife into squares and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

In the meantime, combine the water, sugar, orange juice, orange peel and cinnamon sticks, and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. When the galaktoboureko comes out of the oven, drizzle with the syrup.

Let the pastry cool a little before attempting to remove the squares neatly. This will be your biggest challenge. This pastry tastes best when it’s still warm.

Easy, Right? If you want to try this, but you are still not sure you want to try your hand at baking, attend one of the many Greek festivals this summer. Just about every Long Island Church will hold their annual festival during the summer. Last weekend I went to the Festival in the Hamptons and at the end of August Port Jefferson will hold their festival. The pastries are all homemade by the Women’s group in the church, as is most of the delicious food. Find out where the festivals are in your state.

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