Bougatsa is among the irresistible, edible gifts that were given to us by our neighbours in Turkey. The numerous Greeks who arrived in various parts of Greece during the Asia Minor disaster didn’t come empty-handed.
History has proven that in cases of devastating, enforced migration overnight, people manage to salvage more with their minds than with their hands. People who unwillingly leave their home, their household, their wealth or poverty, feel the need to continue a somewhat normal everyday life, enjoying at least some of their basic habits. Food is, obviously, one of the first things people carry with them away from home, a practical and comforting reminder of their lives. And this is the reason that so many cuisines from around the world have spread the way they have, giving us the chance to enjoy them. The various mixtures have created unbelievable dishes and wonderful tastes, as well as some meaningless disputes over their origin.
The turkish word pogatsa (POĞAÇA = dough) became, over time, the Greek bougatsa and began containing not just cream, cheese or minced meat, but also the cultures of two different peoples who, if nothing else, share the love for the bliss that food can bring.
- 1 pack of crusty fyllo or Beirut fyllo
- 120g cow butter
For the fyllo dough, optional
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of cinnamon
For the cream
- 1l of fresh milk
- 200g of sugar
- 80g of corn flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 vanilla clove or a sachet of vanilla scent
- Peel from 1 lemon
- Cinnamon and powdered or fine sugar, for serving
In a medium-sized pot, pour all the milk, except one cup of it, and let it warm up. Add the vanilla and lemon peel.
Let it heat up nicely, but make sure it doesn’t start boiling. In a bowl, pour the sugar, the corn flour, the eggs and the one cup of milk you saved.
Next, use a ladle to grab some of the pot’s warm milk and add it to the egg mix, stirring continuously, on medium heat. Continue the process until you’ve added about half of the warm milk to the egg mix. Right afterwards, pour the egg mix into the pot of milk and keep stirring, over medium heat.
In a few minutes, you’ll see the mix curdle, so when your cream is thick enough you’re good to go. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool off for a bit.
In a smaller pot, melt the butter.
Spread the fyllo dough on the kitchen counter, rub some butter on a pyrex bowl or pan and place the first layer of fyllo. Butter it up nicely and place the second fyllo on top. Continue along the same lines until half the fyllo pieces from the pack, about 5 or 6, are in place.
Pour all of the now cooled-off cream, and resume placing buttered fyllo pieces on top.
Spreading butter on each and every fyllo piece helps a lot with their baking, so what matters the most is not how much melted butter you use, but how well you’ve spread it with a brush.
Now, a tip about using the sugar and cinnamon mix between the pieces of fyllo. It will make your bougatsa a bit more peculiar; this is not to say that you absolutely can’t skip this step, but using it will bring out a more nuanced taste and texture. As you spread the bottom pieces of fyllo, you can, for instance, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and half a tablespoon of cinnamon, between the third and fourth layer.
You can repeat this step on some of the top layers. After you’re done with all of the pieces of fyllo, place the bougatsa in a preheated oven, at 170 degrees. It won’t need more than 30-35 minutes to turn golden. Also, you won’t have to carve the pieces beforehand, like you usually do with pies.
As soon as you take the bougatsa out of the oven, be patient, let it cool off for a bit and then sprinkle with powdered or fine sugar.
And don’t be stingy with the cinnamon, go crazy with it as it will give a very nice boost to your metabolism…