Sunday, March 14, 2021

Bougatsa pie

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible.

Bougatsa is best described as a Greek custard pie with warm spices and a phyllo crust. When I visited Greece, it was served every morning for breakfast. But it's delicious any time of day. I love the contrast of the creamy filling with the crisp phyllo.

It's typically baked in a large casserole dish and cut into squares, but in honor of Pie Day, I made it into an actual pie in a skillet. The phyllo dough serves as the crust to the custard filling.

I use clarified butter whenever I work with phyllo. The butter we buy from the grocery store consists of butterfat, milk solids, and water. Clarified butter is the butterfat with everything else removed.  Because the milk solids are removed, clarified butter has a higher smoking point. Phyllo dough is very delicate and using clarified butter helps it to brown evenly. I recommend using a good quality butter like Challenge European Style Unsalted Butter. Challenge European butter is churned slower and longer than other butters to produce a more flavorful butter with less moisture and higher butterfat. In fact, it consists of 83% butterfat, whereas standard American butters contain 80% butterfat.

I have a bit of advice if you haven't worked with phyllo dough: Use a damp towel and work quickly to prevent the phyllo from drying out. It's important to first allow your phyllo dough to come to room temperature, but don't open the package until you're ready to work with it. Once you open the roll and expose it to air, it will dry out. This is problematic because phyllo becomes brittle and breaks easily when dry. I recommend you lightly dampen a tea towel and use it to cover the phyllo you aren't currently using while you layer and butter each phyllo sheet in the skillet. Use one entire roll as the base of your crust. A standard roll has 20 sheets. If one or more of your sheets rips, that's okay! Just use as many sheets as you can.

Bougatsa pie

Yield: 8 servings


For the clarified butter

For the custard
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) semolina flour (can substitute with 60 grams all purpose flour)
  • 1 1/4 cups (283 grams) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 20 sheets phyllo dough, thawed


For the clarified butter

  1. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Don't stir!
  2. Skim off foamy milk solids that rose to the top.
  3. Carefully ladle golden butterfat into bowl, leaving behind residue of milky white solids that settled at bottom of pan.
  4. Keep clarified butter at room temperature throughout duration of spanakopita recipe. When finished, cover and store in refrigerator.

For the custard

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and semolina flour. Add whole milk, heavy cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cardamom. Whisk to combine.
  3. Brush bottom and sides of 10-inch cast-iron skillet with clarified butter. 
  4. Lightly dampen dish towel. Unroll roll of phyllo dough and lay dish towel on top. Keep towel on top of unused phyllo while you work to prevent dough from drying out.
  5. Working quickly, remove one phyllo sheet from rest of stack and gently press in bottom and up sides of skillet. Lightly brush entire sheet with butter.
  6. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, rotating each sheet in a different direction as you add it.
  7. Pour cream mixture into skillet. 
  8. Carefully crimp overhanging edges of phyllo so it looks like pie crust. Lightly brush exposed surface of phyllo with butter.
  9. Carefully move skillet to oven and bake until phyllo is golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. The edge should be set, but the center should still be a little jiggly. Double-check with an instant-read thermometer. The custard is done when it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Remove skillet from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 wedges and serving.

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