A traditional Greek desert with a creamy custard that is layered between sheets of crispy phyllo pastry. This dessert bakes the custard and the pastry at the same time and is then soaked in a delicious and sweet cinnamon syrup. My aunt taught me this recipe at a young age and it’s my go-to when craving real Greek sweets.

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Ingredients – Custard
7 1/2 cups 2% milk
12 eggs
1 1/4 cup fine semolina flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1 tablespoon butter

Ingredients – Syrup
3 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch cinnamon powder

Ingredients – Assembly
3/4 cup melted butter
1 package phyllo pastry
Prepared and cooled custard
Prepared syrup

To make the syrup, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cinnamon stick, and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it forms a syrup. Set aside once done.

Whisk the semolina flour and sugar in a pot (if you don’t have fine semolina then use a food processor to grind). Add the milk in batches into the mixture while stirring. (At first, the mixture will be paste-like, but as more milk is added it smooths out.) Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. As soon as it begins to boil, lower the heat and continue to stir until it thickens to a consistency of a pudding. Once ready, remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts. Push through a sieve to remove any lumps and cover with a plastic wrap right on the top of the custard (this prevents a film from developing). Refrigerate for 1 hour or until completely cooled.

Once the custard is cool, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the vanilla sugar and egg yolks. Fold into the custard mixture until it is well blended.

Brush the bottom of the baking pan with melted butter. With the pan’s longer side facing the top and bottom (the shorter width will be horizontal), place two sheets of phyllo pastry to cover the bottom and hang over the sides. You can overlap the two sheets at the bottom. Brush the top of the phyllo sheets with butter. Add a single sheet of phyllo pastry to rest on the bottom and brush the top with butter. Repeat this process with two sheets and then one sheet two more times. When finished, the bottom should have 6 layers of phyllo pastry.

Pour in the custard into the phyllo sheets to cover the bottom. Add two sheets of overlapping phyllo to cover the custard as you did on the bottom and brush with butter. Add a single sheet on top and brush with butter. Fold over the phyllo sheet edges hanging over the pan sides to sandwich the custard. Place one final sheet of phyllo and fold any part that extends underneath so that it fits the size of the pan. Butter and sprinkle lightly with water.

Preheat your oven to 300°F and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the heat and cool in the pan. When cool, soak with the prepared syrup.

Makes one 12” x 14” pan.

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