275ml whole milk
50 ml organic coconut milk (optional, if you want to make traditional “bougatsa”, don’t use coconut milk, and just use whole milk)
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 egg & 1 egg yolk, beaten
50g icing sugar
60g fine semolina
100g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
1 tsp orange flower water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 tsp of its juice
1 pinch of unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
12 small sheets of filo pastry
ground cinnamon and icing sugar for dusting on top
1. Heat the whole milk and coconut milk in a large pot with the split vanilla pod and seeds. Bring up to a simmering point, at which point the surface will appear shimmering. Remove from heat. (The coconut milk makes the surface “shimmery” to being with, so just make sure to take it off once it starts to boil – that’s what I did and it was fine.)
2. Whisk the egg, yolk and sugar together in a bowl until it is thick and pale. This will take about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the hot milk into the egg mixture as you whisk it.
4. Return the mixture to the pot. Place over low-heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.
5. Sprinkle the semolina into the mixture and slightly increase the heat. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, it will take about 5-6 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and stir 30g of the cubed butter into the semolina custard. Add the orange flower water, lemon zest, coconut flakes (optional) and juice. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming and set aside to completely cool. The custard will thicken further as it cools. It took about 1 hour for my custard to completely cool.
7. Preheat the oven to 190C. Prepare a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Melt the remaining butter.
8. On a flat surface, place one filo sheet. Brush the filo sheet generously with butter. Place another filo sheet on top and brush again with butter. (Ensure the remaining filo is kept to the side, covered with a damp tea towel to prevent the sheets from drying out).
9. With a knife, slice the filo into large strips, about 10-15cm wide. Spoon 3 tbs of cooled custard in the lower third of each filo strip, and spread it flat into a little rectangle about 8 x 6cm. Fold the right and left sides to meet in the middle, then fold the bottom edge up and flip and roll the pastry away from you to enclose the custard completely. See the picture collage for guidance. (Note that I discovered there is no “wrong or right” with respect to the size of the “bougatsa”. You can make smaller or larger “bougatsa”, depending on what you like. I made about 6 medium size “bougatsas” and 4-5 very small ones.)
10. Seal the wedge with melted butter and brush the outside with more butter. Place on the baking sheet and repeat to make six or more pastries.
11. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Serve warm with cinnamon and icing sugar dusted on top (about tsp of cinnamon to 3 tbs of icing sugar). You can keep the “bougatsa” for 1 to 2 days afterwards. If you find that the pastry looks a bit flat, simply place it in the oven at 175C for about 5-10 minutes to make it a bit crispy.