I’ve never worked with phyllo dough before. I’ve never really been inspired to do so. But last week inspiration hit me like a ton of phyllo bricks.
I was watching Vefa Alexiadou demonstrate a Milk Pie recipe from her cookbook, Vefa’s Kitchen. I’ve been eyeing the book for some time but have always passed on getting it. I’m not quite sure why I’ve been holding out. I guess it’s because Greek Cooking has always been, well, ‘Greek to me.’ – get it? I couldn’t resist.
Watching Vefa, I decided that the time was now and that her encyclopedic 702 paged, Greek Cooking 101 manual, was the best place to get my feet wet.
What brought about this sudden change of heart? Her Milk Pie recipe (renamed Phyllo Custard Pie). I was intrigued. What’s not to like – heavily buttered, crispy, paper thin phyllo dough baked in a vanilla egg custard.
Plus, the dessert looked so easy to make that I just couldn’t resist it. I couldn’t wait to get started but first I wanted to make a few slight changes to the recipes. The recipe called for a 14” baking pan. Unless, you’re a wedding cake designer, who has a 14” cake pan? I adjusted the recipe for the far more standard 9” cake pan. Also, I wanted to add raisins. Not any ole’ raisins. I would soak and plump these raisins with warm Hazelnut Liqueur.
With a plan in mind I head to the supermarket to grab some phyllo dough. I was surprised to find it right there in the frozen food section. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, the recipe looks easy, finding the phyllo dough was easy, this is gonna be a cake walk.” I was wrong. There would be hitches.
First, I’m not a big believer in spending a lot of money on specialty foods. If I want puff pastry, I buy regular old Pepperidge Farm out of the grocery store. So, I didn’t think twice about getting the cheaper supermarket brand phyllo dough. Huge mistake. As I unrolled the dough I realized that it was too dry – a particular problem when working with paper thin phyllo dough. It just falls apart. I had to heavily butter the damage dough to keep it together long enough for me to work with it (as opposed to buttering the dough in the pan as the recipe suggested – this way worked fine, anyway). So, word to wise. If you are near a specialty store go ahead and spring for a quality phyllo dough…it’ll be worth it.
The second problem was 100% my fault. For some boned headed reason I decided to use a spring form pan. You already know what happened, right. As I poured the custard into the pan it immediately began seeping out the bottom. Sometimes I amaze myself with my stunning lack of common sense. Ugh!
But with all of the stumbles along the way I have to tell you this Phyllo Custard Pie with Hazelnut Raisins was totally worth it. The top is supper flaky and buttery and the bottom is pure vanilla cream. And I’m really happy with the addition of the raisins…they ground the pie with an unexpected nutty flavor.
This is a beautiful pie to look at and eat (it was devoured before bedtime). So, if you’re looking for something different, stunning and delicious, I highly recommend that you try this pie.
By the way what’s the difference in spelling it phyllo, filo or fillo?
PHYLLO CUSTARD PIE WITH HAZELNUT RAISINS (MILK PIE)
Adapted from Vefa’s Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou
1/3 cup hazelnut liqueur
¼ cup raisins
6 TBL unsalted butter, melted
8 to 9 sheets store-bought phyllo
1/8 TSP ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
1 ½ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
½ generous cup granulated sugar
½ TSP pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
In a small saucepan, bring hazelnut liqueur to a boil. Boil until alcohol has burned off, about 3 minutes. Pour liqueur in small bowl and let slightly cool. Add raisins to the liqueur bowl. Let raisins seat in the liqueur until they are plump and tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan with some of the clarified butter; set aside.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough on work surface with one long side parallel to edge of work surface. Using a pastry brush, brush butter all over phyllo dough. Using your hands, loosely ruffle phyllo by pushing short sides towards one another to create a long cylindrical shape. Place upright in center of prepared cake pan creating a spiral.
Repeat process with remaining sheets, continuing spiral outwards until bottom of pan is covered.
Sprinkle with cinnamon. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat milk in a medium saucepan until it just barely begins to boil; remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Gradually add heated milk, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly; whisk in vanilla. Set aside.
Meanwhile, sprinkle raisins across the top of pre-baked phyllo crust. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the steeped hazelnut liqueur across the top of the crust.
Spoon milk mixture over baked phyllo, evenly covering surface. Return pan to oven and bake until filling has set, 25 to 30 minutes more. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon; serve immediately.