Greek Lemon Galaktoboureko (Custard Filled Phyllo)

Years ago, when we lived in Upstate New York, I belonged to a gourmet luncheon club. Each month a hostess chose a food theme and all attending contributed a dish. It was a lot of fun and some of my best recipes have come from attending those gourmet luncheons. One month the theme was Greek food and my assignment was dessert. I went to the local library and looked at a Greek cookbook, copied a recipe for orange galaktoboureko, and made it for the luncheon. It was a big hit and my husband thought it was terrific. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to write down the source for the recipe and shortly thereafter we moved. For years I tried to identify the source of the recipe, but with no success. Finally, two years ago I was in a local kitchen store and came across a copy of The Complete Book of Greek Cooking: The Recipe Club of Saint Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church. I opened the book and there was the orange galaktoboureko recipe I had been searching for! I now own a copy of the book, which is full of interesting recipes. Recently I have adapted my original recipe, substituting lemon and vanilla for the orange. It is rich and delicious. The recipe has several steps, but it is not difficult. Be sure to defrost the phyllo dough in the refrigerator in advance and carefully read the instructions before beginning the recipe. The results are worth the effort. I am making this to go along with lamb chops for our Valentines Day dinner.

Greek Lemon Galaktoboureko
12 sheets phyllo dough
1/2 c. butter, melted

3 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. farina
4 (2 inch long) strips of lemon peel (use a peeler)
1 vanilla bean, split
generous pinch of kosher salt
pinch of ground cinnamon
5 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. water
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 (2 inch long) strips lemon peel
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan with some of the melted butter, then set aside. In a 5-quart stockpot combine milk, cream, sugar and farina. Stir. Add lemon peel. Scrape the vanilla bean and add the seeds and the pod to the milk mixture. Add salt and cinnamon. Whisk to blend. Heat mixture on medium low heat until almost boiling. In a medium bowl beat the eggs. Remove 3/4 c. of the hot milk and whisk into the eggs, beating constantly. Add the egg and milk mixture to the stockpot, whisking constantly until the custard begins to boil and is thick like creamy porridge. Take pot off the burner. Remove the lemon peel and vanilla bean. Stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside. Unroll the defrosted package of phyllo dough. Keep phyllo covered with a damp tea towel so it will not dry out. Gently remove one sheet and place in the buttered 9×13 pan. Lightly brush phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat with 5 more individually buttered sheets of phyllo. After the sixth sheet pour the prepared custard over the buttered phyllo. Top custard with six more individually buttered phyllo sheets. With a very sharp knife slice through the top phyllo layers and cut into diamond shapes. Bake for 45 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden. While the pastry is baking make the syrup. Combine the syrup ingredients into a 3 quart saucepan. Whisk to combine ingredients and dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a boil on medium heat. Turn heat down and simmer for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally until it just begins to thicken slightly. When pastry is baked, remove from oven and cool on rack 5 minutes, then cut completely through the pastry. Strain the syrup to remove lemon peel and cinnamon stick, cool slightly, then pour onto still hot phyllo pastry. It will look like a lot of syrup, but use all of it, as it will absorb into the phyllo. Can serve warm or cold. Serves 10-12.


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4 Responses to Greek Lemon Galaktoboureko (Custard Filled Phyllo)

  1. Mary Cutler says:

    I love the story about the lost cookbook. This looks yummy; plus I adore custard.

  2. Danielle says:

    I cannot wait to try this. It sounds like something I would love. I will give it a try once the craziness at work calms down. (I think I will be looking for the cookbook too!)

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