Bougatsa

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    20

Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

The only tricky thing here is the filo pastry: getting it to the size of your dish and then putting it in the dish in individual layers. It is much easier with help. You won’t need all of the filo, so quickly work out what is left over, wrap that up carefully and put it straight into the fridge before it dries out and can’t be used. You could make the flavours richer by adding some chopped orange peel or rose water to the semolina but I actually love this just plain. Bougatsa is best served warm with tea or a small glass of vin santo, moscato or port.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres (8 cups) milk
  • 300 g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways
  • 170 g (1⅓ cups) semolina
  • 250 g (8 oz) butter
  • about 375 g (13 oz) filo pastry
  • 3 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • about 2 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Method

Put the milk, sugar and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour in the semolina in a thin, steady stream, holding it up high and stirring continuously. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the semolina thickens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and have a large ovenproof dish ready. You can use a ceramic dish or even aluminium, but it should measure about 35 × 26 cm (14 × 10 inches) and be at least 6 cm (more than 2 inches) deep. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Using a pastry brush, brush a little butter over the bottom of your dish. Lay a sheet of pastry in the dish, covering about two-thirds of the base and allowing the excess to hang over the side and up the ends. Brush the pastry with melted butter. Lay a second sheet of pastry down, covering the rest of the base, hanging over the other side of the dish and slightly overlapping the first sheet. Brush with melted butter. Repeat the layers with 12 more sheets of filo, so that you have seven layers in total, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Remove the vanilla bean from the semolina mixture, scraping out all the seeds into the pan with a knife. Take 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and stir it into the semolina with the beaten eggs. Pour this over the filo layers in your ovenproof dish and cover with seven more layers of pastry (14 sheets), brushing each sheet with the melted butter as before.

Trim all the edges of the pastry, leaving a small overhang on all sides. Fold all the edges neatly onto the custard. Cut one more sheet of filo to exactly fit the top of the dish and hide the tucked-in edges. Brush this with melted butter.

This bit is tricky. Using a very sharp knife, score serving portions like a grid on the surface of the pastry, cutting through a couple of layers of the filo (it will be almost impossible to do this neatly after it is cooked). To prevent the pastry moving about too much and the custard leaking out, support it with your free hand as you cut. You should get about 20 small servings.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150°C (300°F/Gas 2) and bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, dust the surface with icing sugar and then cinnamon and then return to the oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before cutting into the serving portions.