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You are looking at a photo of what just might be my all time favorite food. I hate to make extreme statements and my tastes often change. But, right now, if I had to choose one last thing to eat in life, there is a good chance it would be the Bougatsa from a small, hole-in-the-wall place in Corfu, Greece.

This steaming hot, custard pastry is cut in squares straight out of the oven by a guy who looks more like a member of The Sopranos gang than a bakery employee. He slings your piece across the counter to the gum-chewing check-out lady who sprinkles it heavily with powdered sugar and cinnamon, wraps it up, takes your money and sends you on your way. On the scooter ride back to the house, my mouth salivates with anticipation as the warm custard pie warms my lap.

In this bakery, there is a door open to the back where you can see the lady making the phyllo pies. Watching someone stretch and toss homemade phyllo is unbelievable. I had hoped to make a video of it this year but did not have the time. Think pizza dough tossing times one-hundred. The expert tosses it back and forth, swings the dough around her head in the air a few times with a lasso-like motion, expanding and thinning its size considerably. The custard filling is plopped and spread into the middle and the dough is folded and refolded around it. The whole process is quick, as I am sure she has done it thousands of times, and is both graceful and rough at the same time.

I have never made Bougatsa myself because I don’t like to mess with perfection. I am lucky enough to go to Corfu once a year and will eat this perfect pie annually. Below is a recipe I found on About.com, which looks good and uses commercial phyllo for those of you who want to experience something similar.

Bougatsa – Greek Custard Pie
4 1/4 cups of whole milk
sliced peel of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
3/4 cup of semolina
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
12 sheets of commercial phyllo dough
6 ounces of butter, melted

For the topping:
confectioner’s sugar
ground cinnamon

Warm the milk and lemon peel in a saucepan. Stir in semolina with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly blended and thickened. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until light and add to the pan, stirring over medium-low heat until it reaches a creamy custard consistency. Remove from heat, take out and discard lemon peel, and allow to cool completely. Stir occasionally to keep the custard from forming a skin on top.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly brush a baking pan (13 X 9 X 2 or equivalent) with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with 8 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet well with the melted butter. Add the custard filling. Fold the excess phyllo that overlaps the pan in over the custard. Top with the remaining phyllo, brushing each with butter. Use a scissors to trim the top sheets to the size of the pan. Spray the top lightly with water and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon while hot, and serve warm.

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24 Responses to “Bougatsa – Heavenly Greek Custard Pie”

  1. ToKissTheCook Says:

    I am so tempted to attempt this for next week. My Greek half comes home on Tuesday and if I could perfect this…big hit. We’ll see who comes out of the TKTC vs. Phyllo battle.

  2. Cakespy Says:

    Oh my goodness. I had never even heard of this before–I am so pleased to have made its acquaintance!

  3. Reeni Says:

    My mouth is watering, it is so divine-looking!

  4. EB Says:

    Oh. Wow.

  5. Marilyn Says:

    Oh. My. God.

    (wipes drool from chin)

    It’s 1:21 pm and I have no snack! How could you put this up like that, with no warning?

    Freaking out aside, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and you best believe there will be one cooling on my counter before the weekend’s out.

  6. Dana Says:

    This looks like the tastiest thing I could ever possibly eat. Holy crap! Amazing.

  7. Roger Says:

    Hi Caroline,

    I could go for one of these right now. I love making galaktoboureko, but I’ve never made bougatsa. Same thing really, only galaktoboureko gets soaked with a syrup, like baklava and bougatsa gets dusted with powdered sugar.

    Are there any Greek shops in Chicago that sell bougatsa?

    yum.

  8. Roger Says:

    hey, I found out that you can get bougatsa at the Pagasus stand at Midway Airport food court.

    My next flight to Chi will be into Midway.

  9. Sandie Says:

    This looks fabulous, I cannot wait to experiment! Sometimes, it’s those hole-in-the-wall places that serve up the most amazing food, proving you should never judge a restaurant by its cover.

  10. Blushing Hostess Says:

    Oh! This looks irresistible and even better that I’ve never heard of it before. I am always grateful to discover something every glossy and blog has not published a recipe for – one gets tired of the monotony, no? Thank you!

  11. Haris Says:

    I’m from Thessalonki Greece where bougatsa is our specialty. After making it for friends over the years I’ve started a business delivering to local cafes and caterers for parties in the Chicago area. Contact me if you’d like a tray for your next party. (773)600-9065 or at spartiatis@sbcglobal.net

  12. Homemade Phyllo Pastries – My 1st Video! Says:

    [...] drooled over these custard pastries last year and even gave you a recipe if you want to try making bougatsa at home.  You may use commercial, flat sheets of phyllo [...]

  13. Kostas Says:

    Hi, I am from New York, I know bougatsa since I was a little kid in Katerini, my wife is an expert of making the fillo for bougatsa. We make pies for our friends, they love it, just like in Greece.

  14. Bougatsa | Forkfuls Says:

    [...] Bougatsa – Delicious Greek Custard Pastry Recipe :: Whipped [...]

  15. Tyler Says:

    This looks dish! I can’t wait to try it!

  16. 10 Lesser-Known Greek Delights You Can Make at Home | wrap me in phyllo dough Says:

    [...] sugar sprinkled on top. Creamy. Crunchy. Sweet. Who could ask for anything more? Recipes to try: this recipe from Whipped, or this one from a Greece travel [...]

  17. ozin.china Says:

    When I lived on Crete over 30 years ago I used to eat this for breakfast on the way to my job cutting flowers for the European markets. I hate custard and always thought bougatsa had a soft cheese inside.
    WOW to discover that custard can taste this good. It has to be one of my favourite foods too.

  18. june Says:

    What can I do tokeep the custard creamy during refridgeration.
    Thanks for your help!

  19. nicole Says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never visited your blog before – it is lovely! And thank you for this recipe; I want to make it for my dad, who remembers HIS dad making it for him lo these many years ago. I’m sure he’ll love it. Cheers~!

  20. Liv Says:

    Tried this today and it was easy and wonderful! We don’t have any Greek restaurants in the new city I moved to, and making it homemade is incredible. Bob’s Red Mill brand sells semolina flour in small bags so I was able to find it at my local Fred Meyer, but I’ve also seen it at Kroger and the local Indian market. Thank you!!

  21. Eatin’ Cretan | morgan newberg Says:

    [...] to appear well-traveled, so bear with me. On special days (up to 3 times a week), we have Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα). I’m not one to talk given the frequency with which I eat these [...]

  22. he-gab Says:

    Haven’t tried this recipe or any other — only know bougatsa from eating it in Patras, Greece. Best three descriptors of bougatsa, my favourite pastry ever (and I’m not Greek): Heavenly, addictive, sublime.

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  24. Bougatsa: My Favorite Breakfast | Wu-Tang and Gyros Says:

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