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.
“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.]
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.
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
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
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.