Here’s another veganised Greek family recipe I’m very happy to share! Thanks yet again to aquafaba (I use canned chickpea liquid for my aquafaba– please click on that aquafaba link to read more about it!) I was able to recreate this traditional Greek family favourite. I had to experiment a few times because the first time I used the wrong sized baking dish and it turned out flat (but spot on everywhere else). The second time I used ground cinnamon in the syrup (Mum was horrified) as I ran out of sticks and didn’t make enough syrup so it all pooled in the middle and looked urgh. The third time turned out perfect but Mum and I tried the ‘lazy’ way of assembling the filo, but the filo got overcooked on the edges but not in the middle (but again, tasted perfect).
As always with family recipes, people have their own versions. One of my aunts puts cloves in her syrup but my Mum and I don’t. Of course, my version is completely different and not at all traditional as there are no eggs in the egg custard bit! Nor the dairy butter or milk called for. But it tastes pretty much the same and I find it has the same lovely custardy consistency. Plus it’s quite addictive, like the original. My Greek recipe testers agreed that taste-wise you can’t tell the difference between this and the traditional eggs-milk-butter version, so that’s a win for me! The traditional recipe with the butter and eggs is more yellow in colour, so it’s up to you if you want to add a little turmeric, as I’ve done in one example below.
The aquafaba is unbeaten (as in, not whipped) in the custard. I never bothered trying a galaktoboureko simply without egg or using an egg replacer as eggs are a key ingredient for the custard filling 😉 Truthfully, I was not at all sure my custard would hold its shape well when cooled and that it may be either too sloppy or like a dense brick of moosh. I’ve made semolina porridge on the stove enough times (semolina, plant milk and sugar) to know that when it goes cold it’s not nice to eat!
The recipe can be printed out below, but here are some photos of the process and some notes. I will highlight my errors so you don’t repeat them! But if you do, the errors still taste awesome 😀
– Preparing the custard filling of fine semolina, caster (very fine) sugar, seeds from one vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, lemon zest and almond milk. I add everything together then whisk so there are no lumps. Some may prefer to warm the milk first then slowly whisk in the semolina. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s not lumpy. I’ve tried both ways and it turns out the same:
– The custard has thickened and I’ve removed the cinnamon stick and whisked through the aquafaba. At this point you can add some vegan butter if you like but I don’t even though my mum’s non-vegan recipe calls for butter at this point. Be aware that if you’re using a vegan butter it may slightly influence the final taste (for e.g. if using a coconut oil based butter) though with the amount of lemon, vanilla and cinnamon I use those three flavours stand out the most:
– Preparing the syrup involves boiling then simmering some sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, lemon peel and lemon juice. Can you tell I had no lemon peel left and got desperate? My other experiments involved using a larger strip of peel:
Get your work space ready! Baking dish, melted vegan butter and your filo pastry. Keep a clean damp towel over your filo until you’re ready to take a sheet. Brush butter on your baking dish first. My baking dish measures about 25cm x 19cm x 8cm:
– Brush butter over the sheet of filo then place it in your buttered baking dish. Depending on the size of your dish, you may have to overlap pieces. Don’t fold the filo to make it fit in the dish, it’s all supposed to hang out. Also don’t worry if your filo tears. Here you can see we’ve overlapped the sheets. I did about six layers:
– The custard should be cooled (or at least ever so slightly warm to the touch, but not hot!) when you pour it in to your prepared dish:
– Use a sharp knife to gently cut through the top layers of filo. Don’t cut through to the bottom! In this photo example, Mum and I folded the ‘lazy’ way, which was adding a few sheets to entirely cover the custard, then we folded the overhanging edges inward. I prefer to trim the edges and tuck them in. You can see how to do that in this video, which is in Greek but fast forward towards the end to see how it’s done. It’s very important to make sure your custard filling is enclosed properly so it doesn’t leak out and make a mess in your oven:
– In this experiment, Mum’s oven browned the filo too much on the edges. Although the filo in the middle was cooked and crisp, we decided it was best to take it out instead of letting the middle brown more. Use your sharp knife to cut pieces all the way through but don’t remove a piece! I prefer to leave it cool before I cut it, but Mum and I were in a hurry here:
– Your syrup should be completely cool before pouring it over the hot galaktoboureko. Here my Mum poured it straight from the saucepan but I recommend using a ladle or a big spoon. At this point Mum and I realised we didn’t use enough filo sheets on top and were a bit mehhhh just pour it straight on and get it over with! Now this is the hard part: LEAVE IT TO COOL! You will be tempted to pick at the filo. You will pick at the filo. You will go find something to do but keep coming back for more picksies. You will cut a weeeeee piece while it is still hot even when you know you should wait. I am certain of it. When it has cooled enough for a piece to hold its shape, without custard slopping around, that’s when you can stuff your face:
– In the next ugly photo below, I tucked the filo in properly around the edges. Then I had a moment of panic where I thought I had made a mistake with cutting through the filo before baking, so I used filo scraps like band-aids and hoped it would end up looking like a pretty decoration. It didn’t. This is also the experiment where I used cinnamon powder in the syrup instead of sticks and I also made half the amount of syrup I needed. Not only has most of the syrup pooled in the middle, but the cinnamon powder has kinda made it look crap. So don’t use cinnamon powder!
– In the next photo, I’ve tucked the filo in properly but it was too bulky around the edges because I had the batch of filo from hell, where the sheets were clumped together and kept tearing when I’d try to separate them. Still, biting in to a chunk of nice sweet filo doesn’t bother me too much:
– This next pic shows a piece from the batch with the cinnamon-powder-in-syrup-instead-of-sticks. I’d also added a good pinch of turmeric to the custard for colour. Despite how fug this experiment looked (in the photo immediately above), it tasted perfect:
– In this pic below, the slice comes from the same batch shown in the step-by-step photos. We didn’t use enough filo on the top layer. You can see it’s still quite pale on top, even though it was crisp and cooked. The custard is also the untouched colour (as in no turmeric). When the syrup is poured on top your filo will soften. It won’t look as good over the next few days but you won’t care:
– This was my final experiment, using six tablespoons of aquafaba instead of four. Hard to say if it made much of a difference, because in this experiment I also added more syrup. The end result was a slightly softer custard, though whether this was because I added more syrup I can’t be sure. So if my recipe says use four tablespoons but you have six and have nothing to do with the last two tablespoons, feel free to throw them in instead of down the sink!
The recipe is quite open to flavour changing. If this too lemony or not lemony enough for you, add less or more! Same with the cinnamon, same with the sugar in the syrup. Add a few cloves to the syrup if you like. Some may be happy adding orange and lemon peel to the syrup. Experiment and enjoy the process!