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 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.
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.