Ah, the famous traditional galaktoboureko (γαλακτομπούρεκο). I firmly believe that while baklava is the most well-known dessert outside of Greece, once you have galaktoboureko, you’ll never forget this Greek dessert again.
This past week has been a whirlwind for us. We’ve moved recently, which is never a fun thing to do. Granted we’ve moved a lot over the years, and we like to think we’re pretty efficient at it, it still sucks the life out of you. With the move comes adjusting to a new place, getting back into a routine, and becoming familiar again with your daily schedule. It is funny how your home is in a way the center of your life. Beyond the obviousness of living there, the daily routine, work, and all that you do outside of the home can become a major adjustment in a new location.
One of the positive things though is with moving comes change. Change can be a fantastic thing, especially when it’s planned. It gives you the ability to almost reinvent yourself. You can pick up new routines, habits, and get that excitement that comes with something new – be it a home, area, or new opportunities. If anything, it’s a good excuse to play Bob Dylan’s ‘Times They Are a-Changin.’ Maybe it’s not as deep of a change as the song implies, but hey, it’s a good song.
All this talk about change is making me hungry, so let’s get to this famous delicious Greek custard dessert aka galaktoboureko.
Galaktoboureko | Greek Custard Dessert
Imagine a delicious sweet semolina based custard perfectly encased between flaky buttery phyllo, and then an amazing lemon-orange flavored syrup poured over in such a way that it’s absorbed fantastically. I know, right? This is the essence of one of the best Greek desserts around – galaktoboureko.
What Is Semolina?
Some may be wondering what semolina is. Since it’s the base of this dish, we thought it would be good to explain what it is. It’s used widely in Greek cuisine, from desserts like galaktoboureko and halva, to meat dishes like, pastitsio.
Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings (leftover when turning wheat into white flour) of durum wheat. It’s normally yellow in color and is used as the base flour for couscous. If you’re from the US, you may know of Cream of Wheat, which is semolina based. It is high in gluten and protein, but is generally considered healthier than white four.
It’s also worth noting, that much of the pasta found in Greece (and Italy and many other countries) tends to be semolina based.
You can also dive into the nutritional value of semolina, if you’re curious of the breakdown. To save you the click: 1 cup (167g) = 601 calories; 122g carbs, 21g protein. Since this galaktoboureko recipe calls for ½ cup, cut all those in half (300.5, 61, 10.5) for the semolina aspect.
Why Galaktoboureko Is Our Favorite
Some years ago, we were at a local Greek restaurant (read: not in Greece), and when it came time for dessert we were just going to go with the usual greek dessert everyone knows – baklava. However, to our surprise, the waiter recommended something else, “May I make a suggestion? We’ve just finished making some fresh galaktoboureko. Once you have it, you’ll never want any other Greek dessert again.” It was with this confidence we took him up on the offer.
When the plate arrived, there in the middle was this Greek looking pie. Phyllo (filo) at the bottom, thick sweet custard in the middle, more phyllo on top. This then had some syrup poured over. “This is galaktoboureko and it will be your new favorite,” the waiter said.
We took a bite and we’ve never looked back. The buttery phyllo, the citrus flavored syrup, the sweet custard filling, it’s like the Greek gods themselves created this recipe on top of Mount Olympus and bestowed it upon us. If Zeus didn’t have a hand in the creation of galaktoboureko, then i’d be…no..what are we talking about, of course he did.
Galaktoboureko just has all of the flavors, in perfect combinations. It also pairs so faultlessly with Greek coffee it’s not even funny.
Now that we’ve thoroughly hyped up this Greek dessert – it’s time to put it to the test. Go ahead, create a dessert that would surely have been served on Mount Olympus. Galaktoboureko – perfect anytime!
Galaktoboureko Cooking Video
- ½ lb box of room temperature phyllo (14 sheets total)
- ½ cup butter, melted
- -Galaktoboureko custard-
- 3 cups milk
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ tablespoon grated lemon zest
- ½ cup semolina
- -Galaktoboureko syrup-
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 slice lemon peel
- 1 slice orange peel
- We'll make the syrup first, as its cool syrup is poured over hot galaktoboureko.
- In a pot, add: sugar, water, and lemon juice, mix well. Bring to boil over medium heat, stir occasionally.
- Once boiling, add in lemon and orange peels - simmer for 10 minutes.
- When simmering time is done, turn off and remove from heat to allow to cool.
- - Now, let’s start on the custard for galaktoboureko-
- In a large pot, add milk and bring to slight simmer then reduce heat to medium.
- As the milk heats, in a bowl, beat eggs and then add sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest, mix thoroughly.
- When the milk is at a slight simmer, take 1 cup worth of it and slowly add it to bowl with the egg/sugar mixture--stirring entire time (this is to temper eggs), and set aside.
- Now, grab your semolina and slowly add it to the pot with milk, stirring the entire time. Do this in stages. Add a little semolina, stir, little more, stir, etc..
- Once all semolina is incorporated into the milk, add in egg/sugar mixture that was tempered earlier, stir until it begins to thicken.
- Once the galaktoboureko custard gets thick (think cake batter), turn off and remove from heat.
- --Grab your phyllo and let’s assemble the galaktoboureko--
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Unwrap phyllo, unroll and cover with a damp towel.
- Take your baking dish (we use 9 X 9) and brush with some melted butter.
- Take one sheet of phyllo and place it in the dish (you may need to cut them to make them fit).
- Brush top of phyllo with some melted butter.
- Add another sheet on top, brush with butter -- repeat this 5 more times (total of 7 sheets: phyllo, melted butter, phyllo, etc.,)
- After the 7th sheet, pour the custard over the top of the phyllo sheets, and spread evenly.
- Repeat step 17-18 with 7 more phyllo sheets.
- Brush top sheet with some melted butter, slightly score, and place in oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Once galaktoboureko is finished, remove from oven and immediately pour the cool syrup over the top. Let it sit to cool for at least 30-40 minutes, or until the sugar is absorbed.*
- Cut into squares and enjoy your freshly baked galaktoboureko!
**Yield is using a 9x9 pan, using say a 9x13 will increase the number of pieces.