Ok so they’re not literally cupcakes. They are round little parcels of flaky, buttery, syrupy, custardy goodness. My history with galaktoboureko began about five years ago, which was the first time I ever had it. My friend Geoff is the one I credit for introducing me to it. My first bite of it was a revelation…up until that point, I hadn’t known of any Greek desserts besides baklava.
I’m not sure what made me want to do a cupcake shaped version of the dessert, but it had been on my mind lately and I wanted to see if I could make it work. It turns out I could. But before I tried, I googled to see if anyone’s done it before and surprisingly, I couldn’t find any posts about anyone doing this with galaktoboureko. I’m sure I’m not the first one though. Google, expansive though it may seem, is not the authority on whether or not anyone has ever made galaktoboureko in the shape of cupcakes so I’m not going to get all smug and claim to be the first. I’m just the first that I know of.
The recipe and instructions are as follows:
(recipe adapted from Iron Chef Cat Cora’s original, halved to make a dozen standard size galaktoboureko cupcakes)
For the galaktoboureko:
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup fine semolina
- 1 /2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter (5 1/3 tbsp)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 sheets thick, commercial filo dough (if you come across a brand that shows the number, I used a #7)
- 2/3 cup clarified butter, to brush on filo sheets
For the syrup:
- 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 lemon
Custard: In a heavy pot, bring the milk to a boil. Sprinkle in the semolina, whisking constantly over very low heat. Add the sugar, then simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and add the butter and the eggs, 1 by 1, stirring. Blend in the vanilla. The mixture will be thick but pourable, like a sauce.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
But first, a word about filo that is commercially available…
For those unfamiliar, some brands of filo (like Apollo, the brand I used) tell you the number of the type of filo pastry it is. The higher the number, the thicker each sheet, therefore the easier to work with. I worked with #7 filo sheets. It was either that or the #4, the only other option available in the store, and previous experience with filo has taught me that I do not want to work with a thinner sheet.
Getting on with the instructions…
Before cutting up my filo into squares the size I needed, I needed to know how big the squares should be. I practiced with a sheet of Kleenex (a clean one), that I cut into a 6″ x 6″ piece and working it into one of the cups of my muffin tin to see how it would work. Turned out to be a good size.
As mentioned on the package, each filo sheet was 14″ x 18″. I decided I would make my cups 4 sheets of filo thick. Each sheet would give me 6 smaller squares when cut. I counted out 8 sheets (because each muffin tin has 12 cups and I would need two sets of 6 squares 4 sheets deep) and cut them lengthwise, and then cut each half into thirds (little did I know when I was a little girl how much fractions would come in handy someday!). I now had a stack of 48 squares to work with (the squares were roughly 6″ x 6″, not exact because I didn’t want to cut off 2 inches of filo from the width of the sheets just for the sake of precision…it would’ve been unnecessary waste!)
To assemble the cups, I layered 4 squares of filo with brushes of butter in between, also brushing butter on the top square. I then pressed this into one of the cups in the muffin tin, arranging it so there was as much room for custard as possible (there will be filo overhang, but this is necessary). Then with a ladle, I filled the cup with custard all the way to the rim, then folded down the overhanging flaps of filo sticking up to create a protective cover over the custard. After folding them down, I brushed the tops with butter to seal and weigh down the flaps. See below:
Between pressing the filo sheets into the muffin tin and brushing the sheets before they go in, you end up with very buttery fingers and a buttery pastry brush handle, but I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. It also takes quite some time to assemble the little darlings, but if you want good results, you must be patient and do things with care.
When done assembling the muffin tin, I baked it at 375F for 30 minutes, checking to see how golden brown the filo was getting. Once they achieved the shade of golden brown in the picture below, I removed from the oven.
I freaked out a little when I saw that the tops of the cupcakes were puffing up, thinking they would puff up all the way and expose the custard, but was extremely pleased when they came out looking like this:
I made the syrup while the cupcakes were baking and when they came out, I spooned a bit of syrup into each cupcake’s opening at the top. Then I took them out of the pan and brushed the tops and sides of the cupcakes with the syrup for good measure.
I let them sit out for a couple of hours before enjoying one —
And it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Took a long time, but it was worth it!