*** This recipe was originally posted on The Good Egg blog in September, 2008.
I have wanted to make this recipe for years. The proper name is “galatoboureko”. I found the recipe in the Cold Weather Cooking Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. In her introduction to this recipe, she calls galatoboureko “a custard cousin to the better known baklava”. Who could resist that?!
The recipe calls for a 17×11 inch baking sheet. I got out my ruler to check that I had the proper sized pan. I bought this baking sheet at a restaurant supply store and it is about an inch deep. This must have been the type of pan she used in her recipe because the filling fit in the pan exactly and the phyllo was just the right size. If you don’t have this size of pan, I would recommend trying two smaller sized pans – maybe an 11×13 dish with a smaller pan for the rest? Just cut the phyllo dough to fit the pans. Then again, maybe it’s worth your while to go and get a 17×11 baking sheet. I just wanted to make you aware of the issue before you get started.
I don’t know if you have worked with phyllo dough before, but it is really very simple to use. One of the most important parts is keeping the dough covered with a damp towel. I have lazily tried to skip this many times and the dough starts to dry out immediately, leaving me with cracking and crumbling sheets of phyllo. When I made this recipe, I forgot to make slits in the phyllo before I baked it. This may have been why the phyllo shrank up a little (as you can see in the picture) or maybe it would have done that regardless. The slits in the top are also important for when you spread the sugar syrup on top. My sugar syrup stayed on top of the phyllo, more or less, but it should have soaked down into the dessert, flavouring the custard with the subtleness of lemon and orange.
I would recommend making galatoboureko when you have a crowd to serve. I made them on Sunday, just before Alan was going out of town for the week. Me, an empty house after the kids are in bed, and a huge pan of custard squares staring at me from inside the fridge. Not a good combination. I ended up giving lots of it away before things really got out of hand. I can’t wait to make them again, though!
Greek Custard Squares (Galatoboureko)
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1 slice orange
2 litres milk
1 c. sugar
1 cup farina or Cream of Wheat
1/2 c. unsalted butter
Pinch of kosher salt
12 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed
1. Prepare the syrup: Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and boil 10 minutes, skimming off any froth that rises to the surface. Remove and discard the orange slice. Set aside to cool.
2. Prepare the custard: Scald the milk with the sugar in a deep saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the Cream of Wheat. Add the butter and salt. Continue cooking and stirring until the butter has melted and mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
3. Beat the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl until light, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooled Cream of Wheat mixture and blend thoroughly.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. To assemble, brush a 17×11 inch baking pan with a thin coating of the melted butter. Unwrap the phyllo dough, lay it out flat on a clean surface, and cover it with a slightly damp tea towel to keep it from drying out. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on bottom of the pan and brush it with a coating of melted butter. Continue laying and buttering the dough in the same manner for 8 sheets.
6. Pour in all the custard and spread it evenly. Cover the custard with 8 more layers of buttered phyllo dough. Puncture the top sheets with a sharp knife in several places to allow the custard to breathe during baking.
7. Bake until the custard is set and pastry shakes loose from the pan, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
8. Let cool 30 minutes, then pour the sugar syrup over the pastry. Let cool completely. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature, cut into small diamonds with a sharp knife. Makes about 48 diamonds.
* These really taste much better if they are at room temperature, as opposed to still hot out of the oven!