Recipes

ruffled milk pie

I first learned about ruffled milk pie from Vefa’s Kictchen, a substantial Greek cooking volume that first came out in 2009. A type of galatopita (“pie made with milk,” aka a baked custard pie), this is more striking in appearance than most due to wound and rumpled sheets of pastry, which also provide texture and crunch. It’s so pretty and it sounded so simple — there are 7 ingredients and I bet we keep 6 of them around — it was absolutely, unequivocally something I could get into and want to tell you about immediately save one thing: it uses filo. And would rather do almost anything than work with filo. And I have! I’ve had two kids. I’ve written two cookbooks. I’ve moved apartments. I have planted gardens and taken up running and gone on vacations and okay, maybe I didn’t do all of these things just to avoid using filo in one single recipe, but I can tell you that when the top two items on my to-do list sifted out last week as 1. Purge too-small clothes from kids’ overstuffed dressers, and 2. Make ruffled milk pie, I at last found something I hated more than more than I dreaded working with filo. I am pleased to tell you that my kids clothes are still an unmitigated disaster but this pie is fantastic.


first sheetmessily ruffled filostart your rufflesready to bake

“Geez, Deb, what did filo ever do to you?” Fair question and, in short, it stresses me out. It tears and cracks. It likes to dry out before you can blink and it’s unforgiving once this happens. You’re supposed to keep a piece of plastic on the open package of sheets followed by damp towel on it but when I run a towel under faucet and wring it out, it’s always too heavy and wet and manages to glue all of the sheets together at the edges. I’ve opened up boxes that were nothing but shards. I know, I know, way to sell a recipe, Deb. [Don’t worry, I’ll share some tips for the filo-averse below.]

first bakequick whiskpour the custard overfrom the oven

But the best news is that everything that can potentially be terrible about filo does not matter here. Your sheets can tear and crack and break instead of ruffling in places and this pie will be exactly as good because the filo provides volume and texture, but it doesn’t hold anything. In fact, this is closer to a … crispy filo bread pudding or a noodle kugel made with filo rosettes than it is what we think of as pie. And look, I know looks aren’t everything (but your hair looks fantastic today) but just look at it. It’s not just pretty from the top, it’s pretty within each slice, and I think it’s exactly what your weekend brunch/lunch/afternoon needs.

shower with powdered sugar
ruffled milk pie
mine

Previously

One year ago: Rhubarb Upside-Down Spice Cake
Two years ago: Failproof Crepes + A Crepe Party and Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Proscuitto
Three years ago: Liege Waffles
Four years ago: Fresh Spinach Pasta and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars
Five years ago: Essential Raised Waffles
Six years ago: Bacon, Egg, and Leek Risotto
Seven years ago: Creme Brulee French Toasts
Eight years ago: Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing, Homemade Pop Tarts, and Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts
Nine years ago: Ranch Rugelach and Cinanmon Raisin Bagels
Ten years ago: Peanut Sesame Noodles
Eleven years ago: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
1.5 Years Ago: Pumpkin Bread and Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter
2.5 Years Ago: Oven Fries and Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
3.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower Cheese and Squash Toasts with Cider Vinegar
4.5 Years Ago: Apple Slab Pie and Potato and Broccolini Frittata

Ruffled Milk Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Source: Various
  • Print

Flavors: This pie is traditionally made with a bit of lemon peel heated/infused in the milk and loads of cinnamon all around, both infused in the milk (via a cinnamon stick) and always sprinkled all over at the end. I skipped both the lemon and cinnamon and used half a vanilla bean inside the custard, but for a more traditional taste, you should not.

Custard: In almost every recipe I checked, the cream is heated (often infused and then strained) and slowly, slowly whisked into the eggs and sugar to form a loose custard that’s then baked. I got lazy and did a quick one (whisked eggs, milk, and sugar cold, as you would for bread pudding or french toast) and had no complaints whatsoever with the results, so I never made it the other way. I suspect if you make it the traditional way it might be thicker and more creamy, but it’s up to you if you want to find out.

Size and shape: You could scale this to almost any size. Maybe you have a 12-inch round cake pan? You could double everything. You could also use more filo in the pie, and pack it more tightly — mine is pretty loose. This pie is traditionally spiraled from the center, i.e. you keep winding the ribbons around until the whole bottom is filled, but I liked this look better, with little rose-like tufts.

Finally, since I spent such a length of time on my Filo Is Terrible diatribe, here are some I think work really well: Defrost your package of frozen filo for 1 day (and up to 1 week) in the fridge. Leave it out at room temperature for about 15 minutes before unrolling it. Once the package is open, instead of plastic, I prefer to use a sheet of waxed or parchment paper that’s slightly bigger than the sheets easier to protect the pastry. I then place a dishtowel larger than the parchment over it, and use a spritz bottle to mist water over the towel to keep it damp but not soggy and heavy. Replace both layers after using each sheet. If you’re pulling off a sheet and it’s stuck at the edges to the sheet below it, it’s fine. You can cut it off or even let it tear a little; it won’t matter here. Finally, leftover filo, if extraordinarily well-wrapped, can be used again. It can even be returned to the freezer.

  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, melted (I used unsalted but if you want to use salted, just skip the added salt)
  • About 7 sheets storebought filo, defrosted (mine were 12″x17″)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds from half a vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) whole (ideally) or lowfat (worked fine) milk
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with butter, then use a large sheet of parchment paper to fit into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, creasing as needed. (This allows you to remove the pie in once piece. You can also skip this and serve it right in the pan.) Brush inside of parchment with butter.

Place stack of filo sheets on counter and cover with a larger sheet of waxed or parchment paper (see note up top) followed by a larger lightweight dishtowel. Mist towel with water to get it damp all over, but not soggy wet. Remove first filo sheet and place it on unused part of counter and replace waxed paper and towel. Brush first filo sheet with butter and use your fingers to scrunch it the long way into a loose fan-like strip; don’t worry if it breaks or tears. Wind it up into a loose, messy spiral. Place in middle of prepared pan. Repeat this with remaining filo sheets, making 6 more ruffle spirals.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, checking at 20, until filo is medium golden brown (you can go a shade darker than I did) and crisp. Remove from oven, leaving oven on, and let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes while you prepare the custard.

Whisk eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bottom of a medium bowl. Pour in milk, whisking the whole time. Once 10 minutes of resting is up, pour custard all over baked filo and return pie to oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until custard is set. Let cool slightly before serving, dusting generously with powdered sugar before you do.

Do ahead: Leftovers keep in fridge (impressively crisp, in fact) for, well, it’s been 3 days and I don’t think I’m going to find out if it can make it to 4, 5, or 6. But I think it can.

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191 comments on ruffled milk pie

  1. Diana

    Would this work with a vanilla pudding thickened with cornstarch? I’m cooking for a little girl with an egg allergy.

      1. KC

        If you did an unbaked panna cotta sort of thing instead of the egg custard, would you lengthen the un-pudding-ed bake time, do you think?

        (I am not an expert on egg-free recipes, but if there’s an egg-free baked custard/flan/? recipe out there, it’d probably do the trick?)

      2. I make the same pie with sweetened condensed milk (one can) thinned with 2 cups of milk. I use vanilla seeds and before serving I dust it with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It’s great and I don’t use eggs.

        1. ChefNL

          The SC milk intrigues me… would you suggest cutting back on or eliminating the granulated sugar to avoid an overly sweet end result or just carry on with @ 1/2 c. sugar as the original recipe states? Thank you in advance!

    1. Jo

      Hi Diana,
      If you can find it, you could try custard powder. It’s essentially a mix of cornflour and vanilla flavourings and was apparently developed by Mr Bird (of Bird’s Custard fame) so his wife, who was also allergic to eggs, could enjoy custard.
      You could even replace the eggs in this recipe with cornflour to mimic the thickening effect of the eggs. Of course, the custard won’t be yellow, but it will still taste good.

      1. Jo

        Hi, I forgot to mention how much cornflour to use. I’ve come across recipes using 2 tablespoons of cornflour for 600ml of milk, but I’m not sure how thick that would make the custard. I’d try this amount and adjust it if you think it’s too thin.

      2. Autumn

        I was thinking about trying it with Bird’s Custard as I have a large container of it on hand, but I’m wondering if the filo might get soggy without the second baking after the custard is added. If anybody tries it, (or any unbaked filling) before I do, please post your results.

        By the way, Bird’s is the best! It has Just a few ingredients and no junk. I sometimes make it adding cocoa, or peanut butter powder, instant coffee/espresso powder, pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, etc, to make different flavors. I use skim milk and sweeten it with xylitol, then pour it into 4 oz canning jars to make very low calorie, fat free individual servings which we later eat topped with berries or a little drizzle of chocolate syrup. It’s not for purists, I know, but It’s fantastic!

    1. deb

      I was definitely thinking berries, especially raspberries. Not sure it needs a sauce but I don’t think anyone would mind. It’s got a very simple taste.

  2. Maro Sevastopoulos

    (the text of the link to Vefka’s Kitchen has a typo, and the link goes to another of her cookbooks. )

    I’m stoked to give this one a whirl! i know people hate working with filo, but despite it’s fragility and my unmitigated lack of grace, i just plow through knowing that it won’t matter what one layer of filo looks like. layering, covering up torn spots, not worrying too hard over the outcome. i also avoid most of the wrapped filo recipes (like triangles) and head toward the layered pan versions. much more forgiving.

    thanks for a greek recipe! :)

    1. deb

      It looked like the 2009 edition is out of print and the newer one, the one I linked to, is the same book (but was renamed to differentiate it and maybe perhaps has better binding, not sure why they have to make this so confusing).

      1. jannabeth99

        They do it so the can sell the same book to you twice! (I’m a librarian. I want to love publishers because my profession has so much in common with them, but I have trust issues.)

        Anyhoo— I love this recipe! It’s so pretty. I’m trying to think of an occasion that I can make it for.

  3. Mimi

    Oh boy, this looks absolutely scrumptious. I too have filo issues to overcome, as I’m sure most sane people do. I was watching an old episode of the Great British baking show and I panicked on their behalf when it became clear that they were expected to make the filo for their pies!

    1. deb

      See, I’m now convinced it might actually be easier. I know it sounds like madness, but since making strudel and finding it shockingly easy (I know!), I’m wondering if the from-scratch people are the sane ones. It would definitely be less stressful to use.

      1. Sara

        I’ve tried Paul’s recipe (on the BBC site) with a pasta maker and it turned out fine and wasn’t too difficult. It’s very forgiving. In fact I was going to make it tonight (with spinach feta filling) and the dough is resting but I think I’ve lost too much steam to finish it, ha! But yes, just like strudel, try it!

        1. deb

          If it’s anything like strudel, as you say, use it now. There’s a window of good (after 30 minutes rest) and then (after an hour) it just gets too soft and hole-prone. But you’re talking to someone who just decided we’d go out for pizza so it’s not like I don’t know about losing steam!

  4. How many sheets of filo would you recommend if the sheets are 10 to 12″ square? That’s the standard size around here in the Netherlands.

    1. witloof

      I have a few Meyer lemons a friend brought me from his tree in California and this looks like the perfect recipe!

    2. Jill

      We used to go there years and years ago. I am glad they are still in business, such a sweet shop with great people.

  5. Holly

    Could I use a springform or other removable bottom pan instead of a cake pan? Or would the higher sides cause a problem?

    1. deb

      Higher sides are fine. I don’t trust even the best springform with this thin a custard, though. I’d wrap it tightly in foil to be safe.

      1. Holly

        That’s true. There isn’t really a crust to provide a barrier. Thanks for replying so
        quickly. I might try this for mother’s day (in a cake pan!)

    2. Charlotte in Toronto

      The pan is lined on the bottom and up the sides with a sheet of parchment paper so a springform pan shouldn’t have leaking problems. I intend to double the recipe and use my 11″ springform. When ready to serve I’ll lift off the ring, trim the excess parchment and put it on a glass platter. I have faith that it’ll all work out.

    3. Carissa

      Thanks for beating me to the punch on asking this question. I’d not thought about the custard being thinner — as well as not soaking into or being absorbed by the filo before it trickled out, into a soon-to-be-burned puddle, onto the floor of my oven. I’m with you: I’ll stick to the cake pan.

    4. Naomi

      Just tried this with a springform – disaster. Could have been that there was a tear in my parchment that let the custard through, but transferred to a deep pie dish and seems to be doing fine in that. I added orange blossom water – smells delicious in the oven!

  6. Charlotte in Toronto

    This looks beautiful and delicious. A perfect dessert for a gathering on the Canada Day weekend. I’ll be making this. Thanks so much.

      1. Yaara

        My mom makes a savoury version, with a bunch of different cheeses, sundried tomatoes and olives. It’s awesome :)

      1. Maya

        My family makes Gibanica, which is a Serbian savory filo pie, cheese or cheese-and spinach. Totally addictive :-)

  7. investiie

    Hi Deb, would itbe possible to make a chocolate version of this? How much cocoa/melted chocolate would you think is safe to add to the custard mixture?

    Thanks!

    1. deb

      Hm, I’m not sure but probably an ounce of unsweetened melted would give it oomph. It’s definitely, uh, going to be beige and ruffly though. But my husband would like it better too!

      1. Irene

        I wonder whether dropping some small dark chocolate chunks or buttons after the custard has been added would swing it positively towards being a more chocolatey version. The tend to only half-melt. I do that in a rogue version of bread pudding that I make, with orange marmalade dollops, and it comes out delish.

      2. Carissa

        Do you think you could roll up, into the rosettes, some haphazardly sprinkled chocolate, either chips or flaked? Then sprinkle some around, post-arrangement and pre-pour?

  8. Oooh, Deb! My goat is currently in milk and I’m looking for recipes to use it up, I’m thinking this might be absolutely divine with her fresh milk. I will report back once I’ve made it.

  9. Kimberly

    (1) why can’t kids clothing be a standard, universal size? My kid is currently in 4 different sizes, depending on brand. Are we vanity sizing CHILDREN?

    (2) Since when do you run and not swim?!

    1. deb

      1. I KNOW. I would literally rather do anything than clean out their dressers. I hope it passes or someone else caves sooner.
      2. I’ve gone to the dark side, I don’t even know. I guess I started at the end of last summer because I needed a change from swimming and it went terribly so I got a trainer and took up boxing (highly recommended) and then I was on book tour and didn’t do anything until late December and then I tried running again (apparently you need to start at a slower speed?) and now I almost like it. I am flattered that you remember my hobbies!

      1. Ellie

        “almost like it” is a very good description for how I feel about running 10 some odd years after I started doing it when I wasn’t being forced to. The benefit of that vs. swimming is it burns more calories in the same amount of time = more ruffled milk pie to eat! Also do you have a preferred brand of phyllo?

  10. Carol Abnett

    Hi Deb,
    This pie looks delicious and now on the list to make.
    Here in Australia we are able to buy fresh not frozen filo, which is so much easier to work with.
    Carol.

    1. waywardbloggers

      I’ll third this question! This dish is just calling for some funky-tangy goodness (But looks great as-is too!).

  11. Susan

    This is gorgeous and sounds yummy. I loathe working with filo every time I make baklava. Worth it in the end but geez!
    On another note, I signed up to receive your blog posts via email but I’ve discovered (thank you Instagram!) that I am not getting emails regularly and I don’t know why. I have FOMO like crazy here. Any idea why this is happening?

    1. Izzie

      Occasionally Deb’s life requires a delay in her emails to us. When I feel I’m missing out, I search smittenkitchen.com where I can see all her recent posts and assure myself I’m not missing out. Hope this helps.

      1. deb

        It’s confusing because there are two email newsletters. One a free service (with terrible ads I don’t place or earn from that everyone yells at me over, sorry) I signed up for on Day 001 of SK and it emails you the next morning after a new post appears on the site. So, if I haven’t been posting much new, the emails won’t be coming.

        A couple years ago, we introduced a much nicer newsletter that’s a weekly digest. It usually goes out (except that one week I basically forgot, because I am a professional) Monday morning and rounds up whatever was new on the site the week before and has (this is the best part, IMHO) a menu-planning theme for the week. The ads are minimal and tasteful and earn about 14 pennies a week, haha.

        P.S. Everyone should sign up! https://smittenkitchen.com/subscribe/

    1. thisgiveslifetothee

      There’s a different thing called “galaktobureko” that is a layered dessert (like baklava but with custard instead of nuts) and then soaked in the same honey syrup.
      I’m Considering this with a honey syrup on top. Maybe sprinkled with nuts?

  12. Sarah

    Perfect timing! I have 7-8 sheets of thawed filo in my fridge that are on the use-or-toss list before the Mothers Day brunch coming up this weekend. I don’t bake cakes, so I hope my pie tins are deep enough.

  13. Bella

    I don’t understand the custard directions…do you heat the milk with the other ingredients for 10 minutes, whisking the whole time, while the dough is cooling? (Sorry – 37 weeks pregnancy brain is my excuse)

      1. deb

        You don’t need to warm the milk. I mentioned that most recipes have you do this, but I skipped it and was fine. Hope that helps. (And good luck!)

      2. Theresa

        I’ll second Deb on this. I couldn’t access this recipe when I went to make this dessert, so followed Vefa’s recipe (which calls for heating the milk). It really didn’t thicken, and upon seeing the photos that accompany this recipe, the “custards” look about the same.

  14. rodittis

    I have used phyllo for baking many things since I was a child ( yes, I am of Greek descent ). I place it on top of the plastic it comes in and place a *dry* cloth over it. Never once did I or my mother or my grandmother dampen the cloth used to keep the phyllo covered. If you will forgive me for saying so, placing something that is essentially waterproof ( waxed paper, parchment paper ) between the cloth and the phyllo seems to suggest the cloth does not need to be damp.
    In my experience, defrosting the phyllo in a the refrigerator requires much more than a day. In my area phyllo does not get my “traffic” in my grocery store so it’s a solid block when I get it home. If you only have a day to defrost, I would suggest leaving it out. The penalties for improperly defrosted phyllo are severe : the center portions will gum up and stick together and you’ll get giant tears in the middle of your sheets, rendering them unusable for certain recipes.
    The good news is today phyllo comes in 1lb packages that are split into 2 rolls, so you automatically have a second roll if necessary. This wasn’t the case when I was young!
    If you do have the chance to make this again, I strongly encourage you to try the lemon peel. The effect is sublime.

  15. TinaD

    Looks lovely; alas, I made baklava every Christmas for a decade and still have the flashbacks. I can say, though, that your phyllo management strategy is spot on.

  16. Leah

    Married my way into a library of Greek recipes and informal tutorials from the in-laws. Over the winter I enrolled myself in Pita School with my husband’s aunt (read: I went to her house and made her show me the magic). Having been filophobic for years, I was skeptical, but then an amazing thing happened: I made filo FROM SCRATCH and it was actually so. much. easier. to work with then the dry, fragile sheets I was used to with store-bought options. It’s not fast and it requires ample counter space to roll, roll, roll (and you use a klosti, a broom handle-length rolling pin many Greek women hand down through generations), but it transformed things for me!
    Whether with store-bought or homemade filo, I think galatopita may make an appearance at brunch this weekend!

  17. That is the prettiest pie I have ever seen! And the name – swoooooon. But sorry, I will not be touching filo until I have no kids at home and am retired (laughs like a hyena).

  18. Wendy

    This brought back memories of Portokalopita (Orange Pie) which is even easier to make because you want the phyllo to dry out and then you crumble it to make the pie. It was a favorite of one of my Greek friends when her children were young because they liked to “ruin” the phyllo. 30+ years ago I was frustrated by store bought phyllo but now have worked with it for so long I have found almost any problem can be overcome with a little patience.

    1. Susan S.

      Ooh, thanks for telling about Portokalopita. Just looked up the recipe and it sounds so delish. Def will try!

  19. Angeliki

    Hi Deb! I am Greek and there is also a number even lazier version of this: for 450 gr of filo, use one stick of butter and put filo in 9×13 baking dish, in rosettes, as you did. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven. While that is happily getting golden, whisk together a can of sweetened condensed milk, and the same volume of water. Take the pan out of the oven, pour mixture over filo, and bake until set!

      1. Angeliki

        Yes,it does, and milk could be substituted for water, too. I learnt the recipe from a friend’s granny in a village in corfu!

  20. Ooh, this is like bougatsa on steroids! I have to try this, being a serious fan of Filo and custard.
    It’s interesting how many cultures have a version of a custard pie? Have you ever tried the South African milk tart?

  21. Stefanie

    I’ve always loved galakteberkio (sp?) & this recipe seems very similar. I think honey is traditional in Greece but don’t know how to add it to your recipe ? Any suggestions?

    1. Jennie

      I’ve made galataboureuko several times (but I still can’t spell it), and it calls for farina (cream of wheat) as part of the custard. It also involves a sugar-syrup you pour over dish after it’s baked.

  22. I have all 7 ingredients – hubby came home with filo when I sent him for puff pastry, and it’s been in my freezer since. This looks like a good use for it!

  23. calli

    Anyone afraid of working with filo should look up patsavouropita (rough translation: rag pie). It’s basically crumbled up or torn up filo and comes in both sweet and savory versions.

  24. Jenna

    Ugh, I *really* need to sort out my kid’s too-small clothes too… guess I’ll be making this ruffled milk pie! My only filo experience so far is my mum (mom) making something with filo when I was a teenager. I don’t remember what it was she made, but I’ll never forget the swearing ;)

  25. Tanya Li Roth

    Would this recipe be good with rose water and cardamom? (I’ve never worked with rose water but have some) When I saw the photo that’s what came to mind. If so, what measurements would be good–and better to grind the cardamom or infuse the milk? Thanks! I’m hosting Mother’s Day brunch and think this will be perfect!

  26. Mary Linda Smith

    I’m thinking that using a muffin tin for each rosette would make pretty individual servings. But you’d probably have to line and butter each one w/ the parchment.

  27. PippaS

    on the sorting of kids’ wardrobes … Here is a recipe:
    1) invite friends over with kids who are slightly smaller than yours (and preferably of same gender/s and/or taste)
    2) make coffee/tea and cake and gather several large sacks
    3) send kids into another room to play (this is important, otherwise they will want to keep everything they like even though they can’t get their head and their arms into it at the same time)
    4) tip all clothes into a massive pile on the floor
    5) you and friends divide/share clothes; unwanted stuff goes straight in the sack.
    :)

  28. Margaret

    I’m filo-averse too but I think I can do this one with your wax paper tip. The rosette design is so much more attractive than the typical winding ribbon, so festive! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. deb

      Ah, good question! I was thinking of those paper fans you make as a kid, folding a piece of paper in different directions to make a kind of accordion. No need to be so specific here with shape. I basically put both hands on the long edge of the filo facing me, and walked the rest of my fingers out an inch, scrunched, repeating this until the whole sheet of filo was ruffled.

  29. I have the same problems with filo and have a delightful asparagus recipe which I am too scared to try and make myself because of handling the filo. Your tips sound very helpful so I have saved them and will give them a go. I like this recipe too.

  30. Marina

    Should you ever need no-fail filo, head to the Poseidon Bakery (44/9); they make fresh every day. Worth calling ahead so they can set some aside for you.

  31. Stuart Botha

    Your recipes are the best! I am going to do this with vegan butter and a coconut milk custard filling using cornstarch to thicken it…. Keep up the good work.

    1. Lauren

      Do you have a coconut milk custard recipe that you’ve used before? i’d also like to try a dairy free version.

  32. Kathy W

    That looks delicious! And..quite similar to Bulgarian Banitsa. I had the opportunity to visit a private home in Bulgaria a few years ago and learned how to make banitsa, and it’s a combination of phyllo, eggs, yogurt and a little “lemony fizzy water soda” as the teacher called it. It seemed an unlikely combination of wet ingredients that turned out wonderfully creamy and crisp.

    1. deb

      Just googled it and it looks so good, so gorgeous. I did a leek and feta spiral pie in my second cookbook; about the only other time I’ve worked with filo in the last several years and like this time, it wasn’t as bad as I remember. I also used the term “filo belt” to describe the range of countries that use it regularly. (Oof, Deb.)

      1. Jane Doe

        I had a Bulgarian assistant teacher in my class earlier this year, and one day she came and had made banitsa for all the kids and me! It was really good & unlike anything I had ever had, as it was (slightly) salty and also a breakfast food they serve with a salzy yoghurt drink, she told me. Recommend!

  33. Lorri

    My best tip for working with filo is: purchase the box of filo from a Greek Restaurant! Reason being: they go thru so much of it, it’s fresh. The boxes of filo at the grocery store, i believe, are at high risk of being frozen, thawed and re-frozen (during shipping and storage) and i think that contributes to the high incidence of stuck-together filo sheets. Simply go to the restaurant during non-busy hours and ask to purchase a box or a few boxes. They’re always willing and it’s a few $… and the filo dough is always perfect coming out of the box.

    1. Aleza

      Yes- unfrozen filo is MUCH easier to work with. I haven’t found a good source in NYC (though I’m sure one exists)- when I lived in Boston, we’d buy it at Sevan bakery on Mt. Auburn st in Watertown. Makes it much easier to work with! We also do the damp cloth, but skip the wax paper.

      1. joy

        King’s Gourmet is a Turkish store on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. They have boxes of filo in the fridge (not freezer) and it’s generally fresh and in good condition. I haven’t had any trouble working with it.

  34. Colleen

    I used to help my mom make baklava growing up, and we never had much of an issue with the filo. She would always just use a couple damp paper towels with the water squeezed (never an actual dish towel). Hope this helps!

  35. Milica

    I lol’d at your story about filophobia (it’s a thing obviously :) ). I’m from Serbia, and here in Balkans filo is the most common type of pastry. It was probably the first thing I learnt how to bake with as a girl. It’s considered “easy dinner” here. That being said,filo in Serbia is made in small shops and wrapped up fresh for you,so maybe that’s why it’s not so difficult to work with. Anyway, I just try to work reasonably fast and don’t stress if it breaks, its all good when it comes out of the oven. :)

  36. Margaret

    Purists will probably scream, but instead of brushing melted butter on filo I use spray oil (like Pam). It’s a cheat, but I don’t have to worry about tearing the filo with the brush, or getting it so wet it tears, etc. Not one I’ve served sprayed filo has ever complained :-).

  37. Naomi

    This looks GORGEOUS, Deb! If one wanted to go the lemon/cinnamon route (that’s how my family rolls with blintzes and kugel), what quantities do you recommend?
    Thank you!

    1. deb

      I’d heat the milk with a couple big pieces of lemon peel and a cinnamon stick, maybe simmer them for a couple minutes together. And sprinkle cinnamon all over when you’re done, along with the powdered sugar.

  38. Nora

    I visit this website at least twice a week and have cooked so many of your yummy recipes, but this may be the first time by jaw dropped just looking at the photo! I can’t wait to make this!!!

  39. Laura

    With the leftovers, could you reheat them in the oven and achieve the same out of the oven taste as when first baked? I’ve got two young kids so I’m all about baking ahead but would like to enjoy later in the day when my husband comes home…

  40. Bonnie

    I made (almost) this dessert when I hosted a Greek dinner party a couple of years ago! My Greek friend loaned me her copy of Vefa’s Kitchen. Next time you are inspired to make this phyllo dessert, try the Orange Pie (portokalopita) on p.598!

  41. Susan

    I’m still gazing starry eyed at the mounds of whipped cream on the coconut pie that I have a food crush on..and now you turn my head with this? I’m such a slut for a pretty pie, and this is the prettiest thing. At first glance, I thought the parchment was a filo crust and I was intrigued. Did you toy with that idea at all?

    1. Raewyn

      Food crush! That is the absolute best description of the recipes I’ve sighed over forever… Thanks for the excellent vocab addition!

    2. deb

      I had considered it! I might have tried it on the next round but I was trying to practice for once, hm, how should I say it, not completely flattening myself with work on a single recipe (looking at you, coconut cream pie and pad thai and fig newtons) and suspected that filo would maybe work but more likely tear and crack a lot and therefore leak, meaning that you’d still want that parchment sling in there and decided to pass on it. But, if you try it, please let me know how it goes. It’s possible with fresher filo or better filo skills, it would be great.

  42. Meredith Outterson

    Hi Deb! My mom loves almond croissants and I’m thinking about trying to make an almond-croissant style version of this for her for Mother’s Day. Any suggestions about how much flavoring to add, and which types? I’m considering working some small marzipan chunks into some layers here and there, as well as some almond extract in the custard. But how much so that it’s not overwhelming? Also, slivered almonds on top right at the end, of course. Would love your thoughts– my family’s been a big SK fan for years! You are literally a household/dinner conversation name :D

  43. Marne Rogers

    Made it this morning and sampled. Added the lemon peel and cinnamon as well as vanilla, could have more flavor for my taste, but not sure how to get it there. Perhaps some Tuaca added to the custard?

  44. Peggy

    Hi,
    Just wondering…I was always taught to use a water bath when baking custard pies, tarts, etc., but I don’t see mention of that in your recipe. Any thoughts on how that might affect the phyllo?
    Thanks!

  45. Susan

    I will try this, sounds wonderful. Have to tell you I feel the same way about filo. I found a recipe for spinach pie that uses puff pastry instead of filo and I have never gone back to using filo for that again.

  46. Nomes

    I’m so conflicted this morning. I have everything to make a rhubarb cake, but as I’m checking my inbox from bed and making the shopping list, I have a strong desire to ditch the (my favourite) cake. Maybe I could make this as a fashionable hat for the rhubarb cake? Rhubarb and custard are a winner… I may be spiraling here. Let’s just see what happens at the supermarket, I’ll list the ingredients just in case 😊

  47. AP

    I’ve fallen in love with My Greek Table on PBS. She recently made a “messy orange” pie that was similar to this, but with torn filo. I like the look of this presentation better – I’m going to have to give a combination of the two a try!

  48. Chris

    It is much better if you buy fresh Filo. Frozen is awful to work with much of the time….lemon curd might adda beautiful flavor to this :)

  49. Chris

    If you can get fresh Filo, you are much less apt to want to tear your hair out. Frozen crumbles easily in many cases although I am told the frozen version has improved. I may try this with a lemony approach…or add Masticha to the custard part….Greeks are familiar with this flavoring gum resin….it is pounded with a bit of sugar and added to the custard for a beautifully mild flavor.

  50. Oh my!!! Loved this so much! Perfect dessert for Mother’s Day lunch. Added a sprinkle of cinnamon to the top of the pastry after I poured in the custard mix. Found that I needed to cook the custard for about 25mins rather than 15mins. Thanks so much for this delicious recipe!

  51. Seraphina Chew

    Okay I don’t understand why everyone is so afraid of filo pastry because I bought some from my local Waitrose (hi from the UK) and it’s in the fresh not frozen section. The sheets handled very well, did not tear at all, and no need to keep it covered. Just baked it – will update on taste but just wanted to say those in the UK should look out for Jus-Rol in the butter section!

    1. Anonomous

      You are very lucky to be able to find fresh filo. Its also sometimes available at a Greek grocery store, and its indeed easier to work with. That being said, like the author says, although I have not made this recipe, I have made other things with filo, and its not the less delicious and beautiful even when it cracks or tears, because its usually all sealed together by spreading with butter, or custard, or what not! But yes, fresh is easier!

  52. jswilson98

    I just put this in the oven for the final 20 minutes. It looks awesome. Serving it to my 97 year old mother tonight for dessert with raspberries & strawberries. Thanks Deb.

  53. bina

    Just made this and “Indianised” it by sprinkling a tablespoon of finely chopped pistachio nuts mixed with some ground cardamom on each filo sheet before scrunching and infusing saffron and rose water in the custard. I also made a richer custard with 3/4 cup each milk and heavy cream, and 2 eggs + 2 yolks. I omitted the vanilla. Looked and tasted heavenly.

    1. deb

      That sounds so good. I am only thinking of this now, but for people who like edible rose petals, a mixture of the rose petals and pistachios (maybe with a drop or two of rosewater in the custard) would probably be stunning as well.

  54. Janet in NC

    Perfect treat to celebrate Mother’s Day, came out just like the photo, I did warm the milk with a cinnamon stick and lemon peel, then tempered the egg mixture to combine, added vanilla extract and a quick sprinkle of cinnamon sugar over the top right out of the oven and it set up like a charm, another SK favorite!

    1. Janet in NC

      Also doubled the filo sheets for ease of use, only buttered the top sheet, used one full sleeve of filo for 7 rosettes in a 9″ pan.

  55. Ivayla V.

    I have a similar recipe I’ve been making for years, but I always shred the filo sheets with my fingers and bake them like that. Makes a delicious dessert but not a very presentable one. This one is so pretty! I am definitely spiralling the fillo next time.

  56. Nina

    I made the pie this weekend and it turned out really great. I needed more butter to brush the filo but I just poured out the excess after prebaking the filo.

    My daughter suggested to stick some raspberries between the filo rosettes after pre-baking, will try that next time.

  57. Elle

    This is beautiful!

    Do you think you could put some berries in it for color, or would that dampen the filo too much?

    1. Anonymous

      I was wondering the same thing–though I was curious if maybe just infusing the milk with berries would do the trick instead and keep the same consistency?

  58. ECHG

    I made this for my mother yesterday. Very beautiful! Notes: I had vanilla beans so I did heat up the milk to infuse with the pods/seeds. I also added cinnamon. I slowly whisked the heated milk into the eggs and didn’t have any scrambled eggs.
    As I was creating the rosettes, I was afraid that I was making them too short, too cramped, etc. But they opened up a little for the first bake, and opened up more with the custard poured on it. Also, they float, so you won’t cover them if you have too much custard or have made them very short.
    Baked them for the recommended times above and had no issues.
    Great recipe!

  59. I made this over the past weekend (I made my own Mother’s Day breakfast!!— but at least they husband cleaned up :) and it was good! For some reason, though, the custard did not set well (particularly at the edges of the pan and in between the filo clusters, which were loosely organized). Even with an additional 5min. in the oven, parts were perfectly set, and other areas were runny (I had to take it out of the oven for fear of over-browning the filo, and hoped that the (very) slightly runny areas would firm up when cooling–sadly, no). I will definitely try this again with the remaining filo dough— I might reduce the sugar a little, use whole milk (I used 2%), and raise the cooking temperature from 350 to 355, and make sure that the custard is poured over the baked filo dough at the correct time. I also think that keeping the spirals loose is key. Thanks for the recipe! Great with coffee and fruit for a brunch treat!

  60. Suzanne Russo

    I made this for mother’s day brunch and it was a big hit. Added grapefruit zest. Thank you, Deb, for posting such an fun and unique recipe!

  61. Ashby

    I made this yesterday and we finished it this morning for breakfast. I got carried away and packed my filo rosettes a lot more tightly (I fit 12 of them in a 10″ cake pan) and as such, the custard didn’t have as many spaces to fill and was taller than the filo, so my cake wasn’t pretty. It was, however, delicious. I added a cup of frozen raspberries, thawed and mashed into the custard, and I did heat the milk before whisking it into the sugar and eggs because I was hoping a slightly thicker custard would cause the raspberries to sink less (it did). Really great, and VERY quick to whip up!

  62. june

    I made this for Mother’s day. I wanted to use the whole half package because i didn’t want to have to re-pack the leftover sheets – and ended up with one 10″ pie dish, and another in a 6″ cake pan. It was great with some macerated strawberries and whipped cream (leftover from making strawberry shortcake donuts). It set fine under 20 minutes. Perhaps because while I used more butter and phyllo, i kept the liquid the same and just eyeballed between my 2 pans.

    1. june

      oh! and my 4 year old daughter helped with the brushing and rolling of the phyllo dough – any mishaps were untraceable!

  63. Bee Willis

    Hi – loved the recipe – I made it on the weekend for Mother’s Day but could not find filo ANYWHERE so I used puff .. let’s just say it looked terrible, but still tasted good. I am in Texas and so am now on the hunt for decent filo (needed to make Australian Sausage Rolls also)…..

  64. I made this over the weekend. Didn’t have a 9 inch cake pan so made it in an 8 inch square pan. Used 9 sheets of filo, in a 3×3 grid of rosettes. I also bumped up the vanilla. Aaaand… I don’t know how I feel about it. The taste is delicious — buttery, milky, vanilla-y. But the texture… It really is like a filo bread pudding… I both found the texture off putting and also found myself going back to snack on it.

    One suggestion — I added some berries nestled in to about a quarter of this — I used blackberries, but something smaller like raspberries would have been better. They made for a nice little pop of flavor and tartness…

  65. Poorna Metro

    How do you do it?!? You manage to make all of my favorite things to eat…things that most people know nothing of! And you do them perfectly, with both humility and confidence. As ever, Deb, you never do me wrong.

  66. Jennifer

    Yum! It’s pretty amazing how sweet this thing is, for only 1/2 cup of sugar (and a little more sprinkled on top). Lovely and crispy and custardy and creamy. I also used 1/2 lemon rind (grated directly into the custard mixture) and cinnamon along with the vanilla. We found it quite lemony and lovely.

  67. SPK

    What a beautiful galaktoboureko! As someone who spent last weekend slogging through the biannual chore of buying/sorting/storing/donating kids’ clothes, I agree that almost anything else is preferable.

  68. LH

    Filo Dough Can Be Tamed! TRY THIS ONE SIMPLE TRICK!!! #LifeHack #NoSeriously

    Friends – try this. Melt butter, cool a bit, and put into a [clean] Misto olive oil sprayer and use that instead of a pastry brush which is likely to tear or put too much butter onto the dough and make it impossible to work with.

    I have taught this trick to GREEK MOTHERS who love me now.

  69. JJ AVINGERJACQUES

    Made it two days ago, served this pretty thing at a luncheon. I was a bit disappointed at how bland it was, and how little custard there was when all was said and done.
    Next time I would wind the filo sheets even looser and space them even further apart, and then make twice as much custard to pour over. AND would def add more flavoring to the custard!
    I think tucking some pre-sauteed apple slices into the folds of the rosettes would add a nice taste to the whole thing, especially when cinnamon is the finishing touch.
    The directions for making the rosettes was right on! I had no problem assembling/using the sheets.
    Finally, it ended up tasting much like a fancy looking bread pudding….too much dough for my taste, sorrowfully. It’s awfully fun to make though!!!

  70. Jaime

    I made this for Mothers’ Day and it was HEAVEN!! First off, it was so dang easy – even for my first time ever working with filo. To keep my filo from drying out, I used a wrung out paper towel to cover the sheets – enough dampness but not too heavy/soggy – it worked perfectly. My sheets were a little smaller than yours and my pie looked a little sparse; all I did was add a second sheet to each rosette to bulk them up.

    I served it with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. It was even better the next day. Thank you for this recipe! It was a hit!!

  71. Heidi

    Made this last week – this pie was a hit with kids and adults alike! I accidentally grabbed the almond extract instead of vanilla and I’d do it again. Grateful for the forgiveness in handling the filo (first time user), it went together with a few tears and rips and no one is the wiser. Easy to make, bake, and serve – good flavor and texture.

  72. Jenny

    I’m disappointed to say that this was a recipe that did not win – unusual for my experience with SK! It took more than 25 extra minutes in the oven to get the custard to set (it was watery, not just soft), and the finished pie tasted too eggy for my liking. I of course had all the phyllo problems expected – but that wasn’t the recipe’s fault – and I sallied forth; the phyllo part worked just fine, even though it ended up being an artful heap of crackly pastry and not pretty rosettes.
    Perhaps I would make it again and alter the proportions to 2 cups milk and 2 eggs, maybe with some kind of thickener added.

  73. Natasha

    I made this the other day – it was so easy, turned out beautifully, and tasted delicious! I needed substantially more baking time for the custard to set though (10-15 minutes longer than the recipe called for). Will definitely make this again!

  74. Jess

    Deb, I rarely have a SK failure, but this was one. Sniff. Ever since you posted this, I was trying to come up with a reason to make it. I finally just decided to make it for my office last night. But I ended up having to throw it away. I guess I would have needed to make many more filo roses, because my version looked like filo roses floating in soup. There was way too much filling. But even if I had made several more roses, I think it just would’ve tasted like crunchy things in custard. Just wanted to warn everyone else – otherwise, I LOVE your blog and your cookbooks!

  75. KK

    I was intrigued by this dessert because I’ve never heard of such a dish. I made it two nights ago, and I’m just not impressed. I thought it would be more of a play on a cheese danish, but it turned out to be a lot more custard-like and “eggy.” I used a 9 inch round pan and fit seven filo rosettes in the pan. I seemed to end up with more of a layer of custard on the bottom with the crunch filo on top instead of what Deb’s photos looked like. In reading some of the other comments, it also seemed like others had the custard “fill in” more of the filo dough pockets. Overall, it just wasn’t my favorite, and I would not make it again. Probably just a personal preference for taste.

  76. Agnes Terrieux

    hello,
    since you now master the filo monster, maybe you’ll want to bake portokalopita, the greek cake made with filo and orange (portokalo), this is a grandma’s recipe (in Greek “Yaya”) so you’ll mesure everything with a simple drinking glass
    The day before:
    1- make the syrup with
    2 glasses sugar, 2 glasses water and 1 glass fresh orange juice, just boil it for the sugar to dissolve, let it cool thoroughly

    2- the cake
    – oil a dish (glass or earthenware ), rather high you’ll have to pour syrup in it
    – TEAR a pack of filo sheets in minute pieces (revenge!) put the pieces in the dish
    – in a large bowl, mix 1 glass sugar with 2 glasses greek yogurt (the fat one, this is about delicious sugar and fat ) until sugar dissolves,
    add 1 glass olive oil, the grated zest of an orange,
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    4 eggs (one at a time)
    pour the mixture on the filo pieces, make sure all the filo pieces are coated, use your fingers to mix; you know filo is mean, it will clump… let seat a little for the mixture to really moisten the filo
    – put it in a preheated oven (340F) and bake for 30 minutes, it will rise and color

    Take the cake out of the oven, prick it with an knitting needle, pour the cold syrup over the hot cake, let sit for the night, the cake will drink the syrup up, have it the next day, dont refrigerate.
    It is said that this cake keeps for a few days, not at my place ;)

  77. Julie H

    This was absolutely beautiful and was as easy to make as promised. The friends I served it to said it was simple and not too sweet. If I made it again, I would scale up the flavor with more vanilla or possibly a smidge of rum. The only disappointment was the Filo did not stay crisp on day 2. I cooled it completely and loosely covered with foil but the Filo was mushy. Any thoughts on how to keep it crisp?

  78. I just made this, and it seemed a little runny in the middle. I was hoping it’d thicken as it cooled.

    Since it didn’t, I popped it back in the oven for another whole ~25 minutes. I figured it needed the time for the heat to get through to the middle. There was this moment it puffed up a bit, and I pulled it out, no harm, all cooked.

    I would definitely bring it to a celebratory brunch. Easy, tasty, pretty, and the eggy-ness just culturally says earlier in the day for me.

  79. Marie

    …thank you!!..was a success,made it for family dinner (which included a semi professional baker)…served it with stewed rhubarb…next time I’m making it bigger