Traveling the world through cuisine

Bougatsa

Pronounced "boo-gots-ah". It's a sweet dessert of a creamy custard wrapped in light flaky layers of phyllo. A wonderful treat if you happen to be in a cafe somewhere in Northern Greece.

Bougatsa

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of semolina
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups of milk
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
  • 1 box of #4 phyllo
  • Powdered sugar
  • Ground cinnamon

Instructions

Making the filling

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the semolina with the eggs and sugar.
  2. Add in the milk.
  3. Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
  4. Using your whisk, continuously stir the mixture until it thickens to a consistency similar to Cream of Wheat (porridge) cereal.
  5. Mix in the lemon zest, then remove the pan from the stove when the zest is dissolved.
  6. Leave the filling aside to cool down to a manageable temperature.

Folding the pies

Before you begin, melt the butter down to a liquid, and keep it close with a brush.

You’re not obligated to fold the pies like this, but this is how we do it at home. Be sure to brush the phyllo with butter before laying in filling and then after you fold them. This will help make a nice crispy crust:

Folding Bougatsa

Finishing up

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350º.
  2. Bake the pies for twenty minutes, or until pastry is golden brown
  3. Cool slightly, then top with powdered sugar and cinnamon

Quick Notes

The easiest mistake you can make in bougatsa is to not continuously stir the filling in the initial run, thus you burn the sugar and make your filling a light gray as opposed to its yellowish tone. If you happen to do this, don't worry.  I did this my first time and the pies still tasted perfect.

When working with phyllo, its important to keep things slightly moist. You can’t let phyllo sit for too long because it will dry up and become brittle. The best way to keep it moist is to lay it on the table, then place a layer of plastic wrap over it, then a layer of damp cloth or damp paper towels. Keep the phyllo you’re not using covered until you need it.

Variations

How you want to fold/prepare the final pie is up to you.  I personally like to wrap them up into individual servings the way I do spanakopita. An easier method would be to butter a large tart pan or pie pan, lay in a few layers of phyllo, pour in the filling, then cover with more phyllo and brush with butter.  You'll cut it into slices when serving.  You could even go a long form similar to a strudel.  There is no right or wrong, but I would not load up too high on filling, or else the pie will fall apart.

Serving Suggestions

Bougatsa is best served warm. Usually I'll wait on baking the pies until the day I plan on serving them.  If you have leftovers, then you can heat them up in the oven (or a toaster oven).  I'd also suggest not sprinking them with powdered sugar and cinnamon until you're ready to serve them.  A good cup of coffee is the ideal beverage to accompany bougatsa.

Tags: Greek, pie, sweet, dessert

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