Bougatsa is a pastry that consists of phyllo and it can contain a filling of cheese, spinach, spinach & cheese, ground meat or in this case, custard.
You can find Bougatsa all over Greece but Thessaloniki (second largest city in Greece) is the reputed Bougatsa capital of Greece.
There’s the Bougatsa made in Crete and it’s usually made with the use of Mizithra and you’ll find shops offering up Bougatsa across Greece.
My breakfasts in Greece were never the same after one first taste of Bougatsa.
When one goes to buy Bougatsa in Thessaloniki, finding a shop that sells them is real easy: look for the rush of people coming & coming in & out of the shop and usually one can smell the combo of baked pastry, Greek coffee and cinnamon in the air.
Bougatsa shops do most of their business in the mornings as that’s when most of their Bougatsa is sold. There are two camps of Bougatsa fans: the savory lover and like myself, the sweet lover.
Know your order when in the shop. Simply ordering a “Bougatsa” will assure you of a question from the person behind the counter:
“You want Bougatsa with cheese, spinach, spinach & cheese, meat or cream”?
Upon hearing your order, the person will weigh your portion, place in some paper wrap and cut it into bite-sized squares. The Bougatsa is finished off with a generous shake of cinnamon and icing sugar.
Most take it “se paketo” or to-go but since I’m on holidays, I like to take a seat, enjoy my order of Bougatsa and people watch. The usual drink with Bougatsa is chocolate milk, frappe (ice coffee) or a Greek coffee.
That, my friends, is the inspiration to my dessert offering of Bougatsa for my Greek Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to make individual serving of Bougatsa and include some seasonal Greek ingredients in it…quince and almonds.
If you know your way around phyllo, this dessert is a cinch and it can be pre-made and frozen. For those not familiar with phyllo, buy it from a store that sells alot it…ensuring you get a fresh package that will allow you to work easily with it and save you from those phyllo nightmares.
Bougatsa With Quince and Almonds
2-3 quince, peeled, cored and sliced 2/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
3 cups of water
2 sticks of melted unsalted butter
3/4 cup fine semolina
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup apple juice
24 sheets of phyllo dough
Pre-heated 350F oven
- In a medium-sized pot, add your water, sugar cinnamon stick and cloves and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the quinces. cover and simmer for 3o-40 minutes or until the slices are fork tender. Strain the quince, allow to cool and discard poaching liquid.
- In a deep pot over medium heat, heat 2 Tbsp. of butter and then add the semolina, sugar, zest, and the vanilla extract. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until the butter’s absorbed and the semolina is golden but not browned.
- While whisking, add the milk and apple juice in a steady stream until all the liquid is absorbed. Cook while stirring for 3-4 minutes, until the custard has the texture of loose cream of wheat. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
- Lay out your phyllo beside your work surface and cover it with a damp towel. Take a phyllo sheet and place it on your work surface. Drizzle the phyllo sheet with melted butter and now place another sheet on top and again, drizzle with melted butter.
- Place a couple of heaping tablespoons of custard in the middle top third of your buttered phyllo sheets, about 2 inches from the top edge. Place some quince slices on top and press to flatten the custard a bit.
- Fold over the top flap, then fold over the sides flaps. Now fold the phyllo package downwards towards you. Lightly brush both sides of the pie with melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Place some sliced almonds on the top middle of each pie. Repeat with remaining phyllo, custard and quince until you’ve made 12 pies.
- If making ahead of time, cover the baking tray with a large bag (garbage bag) and place in the oven until you’re going to bake the Bougatsa. You may bake from frozen into a pre-heated 350F oven and bake for approx 30 minutes or until golden OR
if baking immediately, place in a pre-heated 350F oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
- Allow to cool a bit, plate and sprinkle a generous amount to icing sugar and ground cinnamon on top. Serve with a Greek coffee.
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