Bougatsa is among many Greek favorites! This is the recipe that I have been using for over 20 years. It’s one of my most cherished treats to bake when I have dinner guests. I actually pop it in the oven during the time that we are eating dinner so that the scents waft from the kitchen and everyone is anticipating this happiness wrapped up in crispy phyllo dough!
It’s a dessert that you eat warm, which is why baking it during dinner is perfect timing! Dust it with powdered sugar and cinnamon right before serving. And I have always sent my guests home with a second piece for the next day!
In Greece, we even eat this as breakfast! Semolina custard is very hearty because it is wheat based. You will find this readily available in any fourno that you stumble across. A fourno is a bakery that bakes breads and various types of pita, or pies.
4 1/4 cups of whole milk
sliced peel of 1 lemon
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of semolina
1 tsp of vanilla extract
12 sheets of phyllo dough
1 stick of melted butter
1 stick of cold butter cubed
For the topping:
Warm the milk, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon peel in a saucepan. Just when it starts to bubble along the edges, stir in semolina with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly blended and thickened.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl & temper them before adding them to the semolina mixture. Tempering the eggs will prevent you from getting scrambled eggs accidentally.
Stir over medium-low heat until it reaches a creamy custard consistency. Remove from heat, take out and discard lemon peel. Stir in one stick of cold butter that you have cubed. This will both cool down the semolina custard and make it more silky.
Set aside. Stir occasionally to keep the custard from forming a skin on top.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Lightly brush a 13×9 baking pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with 6 sheets of phyllo, drizzling each sheet with the melted butter. Add the custard filling. Fold the excess phyllo that overlaps the pan over the custard. Top with the 6 more sheets of phyllo, drizzling butter on each. Tuck the top sheet into the pan so that it makes the pita appear neat. Brush that sheet with butter. Gently score it into 8 pieces & pour the rest of the melted butter over it.
Bake at 350 F for 1 hour until you have achieved a deep golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into it. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.
Leftovers warm up quite nicely in the oven again. If you have leftovers, store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat a piece, I will loosely wrap some in aluminum foil & place it in the oven as it heats back up & leave it in there for 30 minutes. It’s as good as it was fresh!
Do not microwave because it will make the phyllo mushy. Phyllo must be crispy in this dish.