We love greek custard-based desserts -such as the one called galaktoboureko and another one named bougatsa– and of course we adore tarts… We combined all those in our own tart with semolina custard, light and delicious!
One day we had a craving for a dessert with the fluffy, sweet cream of galaktoboureko, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Something like a galaktoboureko without the syrup… Like a bougatsa without the phyllo dough… I got into some serious thinking… And then I remembered! A flan could solve all of our problems!
Flan is a pie, with a sponge cake or puff pastry base and a sweet or savoury custard filling. Around the world it comes in many forms: in English they call it custard tart, in France they make the savoury quiche lorraine and the sweet flan parisien, in Portugal the dessert comes in small sizes: the pasteis de nata. In South Africa they call it melktert (milky tart), in Mexico flan Mexicano, while in Greece we have the traditional galatopita.
Having done some reading around the history of the flan, we learned that it originates from the Ancient Romans -as does its egg-based custard filling- but they preferred savoury flavors, even though they used to make a sweet variation with honey and pepper. The Romans were the first to breed chickens for their nutrition. Ancient Greek did also make a pie with milk and flour, called amis, as mentioned by Giannis Lemonis.
Having conquered Europe, the Romans brought flan together, and it became very popular in the Middle Ages. In an Italian cookery book of the 15th century, custard-based food is described as being healthy. In an article about flan history, we found out that the Spanish added caramel, while the Moors are to thank for adding citrus fruit and almonds. The Europeans brought flan to America and since then it became a favourite, especially in Mexico where they eat flan Mexicano almost every day.
According to Madame Ginger, in the evolution of Greek galatopita, a great role played the large surplus of milk in places with dairy production, such as Ioannina in Epirus. There, housewives used to make pies with phyllo dough, semolina cream, eggs and sheep’s butter, cinnamon and sugar.
We can make traditional galatopita with or without phyllo dough, and it comes in many variations depending on the region. We can even make vegan galatopita, by substituting dairy for other alternatives.
What we wanted to borrow from galatopita was its rich taste, the scent of cinnamon and its velvety texture. As we had a half portion of tart dough in the freezer and we like to experiment with variations, we decided to give it a touch of flan parisien. We couldn’t resist adding some cranberries, for some freshness. It came out great, I promise!
Greek flan with semolina custard, cinnamon and cranberries
Ingredients for the tart dough (pâte sucrée)
|Butter (room temp.)||170 g|
|Powdered sugar||110 g|
|Walnut flour (or other)||40 g|
|Cake flour (sifted)||315 g|
|Eggs||65 g (1+a little)|
|Vanilla extract||2-3 drops|
Method for the tart dough
Having baked a lot of tarts, we came to the conclusion that the technique described in our favourite book “The Art of French Pastry” by Jacquy Pfeiffer is the best.
First, cream the softened butter with the salt in the mixer (or by hand if we can stand it) at medium speed for 1 minute. Then add the powdered sugar and beat at low speed, just until all is incorporated. We use powdered sugar, because it is easier to dissolve, so it won’t need a lot of beating. In that way we eliminate the danger of developing the gluten (a protein that makes dough elastic). Higher temperatures also help gluten development, so we want to mix the dough as fast as possible.
Add the walnut flour and the vanilla extract and beat at low speed to incorporate. Add the eggs gradually with 1/4 of the flour and beat just until incorporated. Continue with the rest of the flour, mixing the dough by hand (better wear gloves because at the beginning the dough is very sticky). Be careful not to knead too much, just as much is necessary for a uniform, soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or even better overnight -if you are an organized type of person and have planned your time in advance. Luckily we just need half of it, so you’ll have the rest in the freezer, chilled for next time -as long as you remember to defrost it!
When the dough has chilled enough, it is time to spread it into the pan: put half the amount of dough between two sheets of baking paper (or silicone mats) and roll it with a rolling pin until half a centimeter thick. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle it with a small amount of flour, not too much because that may harden it. Remove the baking paper on top and transfer the dough into the pan by flipping it. Then, remove the second baking paper and cut the excess dough from the sides.
Watch out! It is crucial to leave the dough to slide on the sides of the tart pan on its own, without pushing it, leaving no empty space below it. That way, it will keep its shape during baking, with no need for blind baking with weight (such as beans).
With the leftover dough you can make cutout biscuits to make your tart pretty (or simply to eat). We made some with a bear coupat, because Rupert asked for it!
Now, make holes on the bottom of the tart with a fork, so that during baking the air escapes and doesn’t cause bubbles. Place the tart and the cookies in the refrigerator for an hour at least. Then, bake the tart in a preheated oven (180°C), at the middle rack, for 15 minutes. As for the biscuits, we’ll need them later.
Ingredients for the semolina custard
We borrowed the basic recipe from a galaktoboureko recipe by Stelios Parliaros and it was an absolute success!
|Full-fat milk||1 lt|
|Semolina flour||120 g|
|Vanilla extract||3-4 drops|
In a small saucepan pour the milk with half the sugar (125g) and the lemon zest and place on medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved. In the same time, in a bowl whip the eggs with the sugar by hand. And the semolina flour and mix again.
Brink the milk to a boil (you’ll see bubbles on the surface), take it off the heat and pour 1/3 of it into the eggs, beating constantly with a hand whisk. This is important for the eggs to slowly heat up, or else they may scrumble -in this case we don’t want that at all.
Return the saucepan on the heat and pour the egg mixture into the milk in a steady stream, while whisking constantly. In the beginning it will be runny, but very soon (2-3 minutes) it will transform into a shiny, velvety cream. As soon as it is thick enough, take the saucepan off the heat and add cinnamon (1/2 tsp) and vanilla.
A little secret!
In order to attain a more intense cinnamon flavor, place the milk with a cinnamon stick in a bowl and into the refrigerator from the day before. This technique is called infusion.
Leave the custard to cool a little and fold in the cranberries with a rubber spatula. Then pour the mixture into the pre-baked tart. Smoothen the surface and place the biscuits you have prepared on top.
Bake as before (middle rack, 180°C) for 25-30 minutes. Let it cool and finally sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon. The tart is delicious, ready to be consumed and -if you can resist- storage it for a few days in the refrigerator. On our part, there wasn’t even a crumble left!
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