Vanilla custard filo pie (Galaktoboureko)
Makes one 9 x 13 inch pastry
The soft and silky sister to baklava, galaktoboureko consists of a smooth semolina custard baked between phyllo dough, then topped with spice scented syrup. If you love baklava and love pudding, my vegan version of this extremely popular Greek dessert will charm that baklava-pudding-lover in you. Don’t let the slightly longer directions veer you away; the filling is fun to make and a welcome change of pace from baklava construction.
The flavoring of the custard and the syrup are flexible: vanilla is typical, and I’ve added a touch of lemon, but orange or anise or cinnamon wouldn’t be out of the question either. This syrup is flavored with brandy (use your favorite or try Greek Metaxa for an authentic touch), but I’ve also used orange flavored liquors and ouzo (Greek anise scented liquor) with much success. If you want to avoid booze all together, use orange juice, or borrow the flower-scented syrup from the Orange Flower Hazelnut Baklava.
Tip: Follow the filo dough handling tips in the baklava recipe. For easy syrup pouring, strain the syrup into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup and pour with confidence and precision.
Ingredient tip: Use the finest, smoothest semolina flour your can find in gourmet, Mediterranean or natural food stores. Semolina is the same stuff pasta is made out of. The gritty flour helps dramatically thicken the pudding and give it a luscious texture.
- 4 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup plus another 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup fine semolina flour
- 3 tablespoons vegan margarine
- 6 ounces soft silken tofu (half a Mori-Nu package)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 lemon or 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) of vegan margarine, melted
- 2 tablespoons mild olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 pound package of frozen phyllo dough, approximately twenty 13” x 18” sheets, completely thawed. You will have some leftover sheets.
Clove brandy syrup:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 2 three inch sticks cinnamon
- 6 cloves
1. Prepare and the filling first. Pour the almond milk into a large sauce pan and over medium high heat bring to a gentle, steaming simmer (don’t boil). With a wire whisk stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar, then slowly stream in the semolina while constantly stirring. Add the margarine and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened into the consistency similar to cake batter. Remove from the stove and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
2. In a blender pulse the silken tofu with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract and the lemon zest or extract until perfectly smooth and creamy. I like to use an immersion blender for this and the next step: add the pureed tofu to the cooled semolina pudding pulse everything together until silky smooth.
3. While the semolina mixture cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In large cup stir to combine the melted margarine and olive oil. With a pastry brush coat the insides of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch ceramic or metal baking pan with the margarine mixture. Prepare the phyllo dough for use as directed for baklava, but instead slice one half of the sheets slightly larger than the pan, about 1/2 inch wider on each side of the long (the 13 inch) edges. These slightly larger sheets will be used to line the bottom of the pan, and the slightly smaller sheets will top the custard.
4. Arrange a sheet of trimmed filo into the bottom of the pan, pressing the slightly longer ends up the sides of the pan. Using the pastry brush, lightly brush this sheet of phyllo with the oil mixture, top with another sheet and repeat until you have 10 layers total. Pour the semolina custard on top of the filo. Top the filling with another 10 sheets of dough (use the smaller pieces when necessary). Now this is the trickiest part, so go slowly and take your time: using a thin, sharp serrated knife and gently holding pressing down on sections of the top pastry to keep it from moving around, cut the pie all the way through to the bottom into diamonds or squares about 2 inches wide. If you can’t cut all the way through the first time, run the knife through the pastry a second time. It’s okay if a little bit of the custard seeps through, but just go gentle to insure that the top remains afloat. Drizzle any remaining melted margarine on top of the pastry. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until top is golden brown, puffed and the custard is bubbling between the slices. The custard will appear giggly, but it will firm up when it cools completely. Remove the galaktoboureko from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before topping with the syrup.
5. While the pastry is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool for 15 minutes and then strain into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup; discard the cinnamon and cloves.
6. Carefully and slowly pour the syrup only between the slices and around the outside edges of the pastry. Avoid pouring directly on top of the pastry; this will help keep the top layers of phyllo retain their flakey texture. Leave the galaktoboureko to stand at room temperature for at least 3 hours or until the custard has firmed up and the syrup has soaked into the pastry. Run a sharp knife along the edges and through the slices to loosen the pieces before removing from the pan. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed. Store loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; gently heat or allow it to warm to room temperature before serving.
-Substitute triple sec or high rolling Grand Manier for the brandy
-Use orange zest or extract in place of the lemon. Simmer a cinnamon stick or two in the custard, remove before pouring into the pan.