Saturday, August 11, 2012

Koula's Galaktoboureko

Koula is very excited about having her recipes published on our blog, and even more excited that her recipes will be passed down in the family. This is the first of many recipes of Koula's that I hope to successfully make at home in Melbourne, and the first recipe to be published on our Limnian Tale blog.



Galaktoboureko is a heavenly sweet semolina-based custard pastry, a little like vanilla slice, but much, MUCH better. We first tasted Koula's Galaktoboureko last year in Limnos and apart from her version of Tiramisu, this is my favourite Koula dessert.



She's such a whiz working with the filo pastry – it's fascinating to watch her throw down those sheets and vigorously brush them with melted butter without tearing a single sheet. Anything I ever make with filo pastry first of all takes me AGES and secondly, always ends up all ripped and dry. I suppose by the time you reach 80 years of age you kind of develop a knack for these things.

Koula is my aunt (my dad's brother's wife). She and George live in Rhodes, Greece, so I haven't had the opportunity to spend a whole lot of time with her over the years. It's only when George and Koula are holidaying here in Limnos that Tony and I get to enjoy quality time with them. Much of that quality time this year is being spent in kitchen and it is a real pleasure and honour to watch Koula cook.

Koula's Galaktoboureko (serves 20)


Ingredients

1 1/2 litres of full-cream milk
2 thick slivers of lemon peel
1 cup of castor sugar
1 cup of coarse semolina
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
450g filo pastry
250g unsalted butter

For the syrup:
2 cups of castor sugar
1 cup of water
3 teaspoons of lemon juice

Method

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Combine the milk, lemon peel and sugar in a heavy-based pan and heat until it begins to boil.

Slowly add the semolina to the just boiling milk mixture and whisk for about 10 minutes until the custard becomes thick and grainy. The consistency should be like quicksand.







Remove pan from heat and slowly add egg yolks and vanilla essence, continuing to whisk, then add 2 tablespoons of butter to the mixture and set aside.



Melt remaining butter in a separate pan for brushing the filo pastry. Lay 6–8 sheets of liberally buttered pastry in a large baking dish, ensuring that there is plenty of butter sloshing around between the sheets. I know this sounds excessive, but the extra butter plays a big part in keeping the pastry crisp and flaky and the filling moist. Now I know why my baklava and galaktoboureko always end up dry.



In Greece the filo pastry sheets are huge. They extend beyond the size of the baking dish, so they will need to be folded over afterwards. After laying 6 sheets of pastry, fill the dish with all the custard and fold the edges of the pastry over the custard.





Lay another 6–8 sheets of buttered filo over the custard layer, folding each sheet into the baking dish so they no longer overhang. Of course if you are using smaller sheets there will be no need for the folding technique. Make sure you keep about 1/4 cup of the melted butter in reserve for the final brushing (see below).



Cut the galaktoboureko lengthways and crossways to create portions and pour the remaining melted butter evenly over the top. Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.




Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking time, make the syrup. Combine 2 cups of castor sugar, 1 cup of water and 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in a pan over high heat for 10 minutes without stirring, until boiling. Carefully remove any scum that comes to the surface (Greek sugar is not as refined as it is in Australia so there is sometimes a bit of grey gunk that needs to be removed).

This next bit is really important. It is Koula's secret to making the perfect syrup for filo-based desserts. If the consistency is not right the syrup will just make the pastry soggy.

Allow the syrup mixture to continue boiling and periodically check the consistency by letting a spoonful of it fall back into the pot. When the drop that falls from the teaspoon is slightly sticky and has a bit of a thread from it as it falls back into the pot, the syrup is ready. Do not allow the syrup to change colour – it must still be clear with no golden tinge at all. Remove the syrup from the heat.



Remove galaktoboureko from oven and pour hot syrup directly over hot galaktoboureko.




Allow to cool for a couple of hours before serving. Best served on the day it's cooked, while it's still a bit warm, but can be kept in the fridge for 2 or 3 days and served cold.