Pumpkin Galaktoboureko

Fall is that oh-so-special season of squash. Pumpkin has always been a staple of the autumn season, but in recent years has grown like a vine, spreading to every coffee shop and even into Oreo cookies. From September forward, it's a squash craze.

I prefer to wait until at least October to partake in fall fever, because who wants summer to end? Living in Florida makes pouncing into any season but summer challenging, since, well, it's pretty much summer year round. I'm grateful when we get temperatures below 70 degrees in the "winter". As you can imagine, some Floridians make up for lost degree points by busting out the scarves and PSL's when they read on Facebook that a leaf fell on the ground somewhere up north.

Besides the timing of it all, pumpkin is a great flavor to play with. First of all, pumpkin pie is a stellar dessert that I could eat year round. Not only is it incredibly easy, especially with canned pumpkin and a pre-made crust, but it's rich and smooth and yeah, you get the point. But secondly, pumpkin is good for you. I've talked before about how canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash. Well when you add pumpkin into dishes, you're just adding vegetables. Sure, we can't avoid the fact that desserts have plenty of sugar, but I take a small amount of comfort in knowing that a sugar cookie has zero vegetables in it and my pumpkin pie slice has that advantage. We can always work to healthy up recipes a bit as we go, cutting back on sugar where we can.

So one of my family's big traditions for the holidays is to involve Greek food. We love our baklava and tiropitas whenever we can get them. Galaktoboureko is one of the golden gems of Greek desserts, yet one I don't make often. I mean, it makes this 9" x 13" tray of custard filled pastry goodness, which is a little more than one lady can handle at a time. Not if I want to fit in my clothes, anyway.

For Thanksgiving this year, I was on dessert duty. You can imagine how my heart was aflutter with excitement about this, given my candyland dreams on this blog. I knocked out the pumpkin pie first, since that bad boy had seniority in the baking list. That's when I realized I had all the goodies I needed to make a very fall inspired Greek pastry.

I followed the same recipe I had before, laying down about 10 sheets of phyllo dough with butter spread between them. I tend to butter every other sheet instead of every one, but that's personal preference.

To make the custard filling, I heated the milk up over medium heat until it began to boil. It takes a few minutes, but that keeps the milk from burning to the bottom of the pan. I whisked in the cream of wheat and sugar and continued stirring until it began to thicken. In a separate bowl, I beat the eggs and then mixed in the pumpkin.I only used half a can of pumpkin because this was an experiment and I couldn't just go ruining a whole batch of galaktoboureko. Have you seen how much phyllo dough costs?!

To combine the forces of hot cream of wheat and raw eggs, I had to temper the eggs. I slowly spooned the hot milk into the eggs, whisking it to keep the heat evenly dispersed. Once the bowl of eggs felt warm to the touch (I had added about half of the cream of wheat into the egg bowl), I poured everything into the saucepan and mixed it well.

I poured it into the phyllo lined pan, then continued alternating phyllo and butter for another 10 layers.

The final product was a butter infused dessert lasagna of custard and phyllo dough.

I baked the galaktoboureko for about 40 minutes, until the top layer was golden brown. I let it cool for about half an hour before starting the syrup, because it's important that the syrup not be poured onto the fresh out of the oven pan. It will burn to the bottom.

The syrup was 1 part water to 2 parts sugar with some ground nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, and vanilla extract. I heated it on medium-high until the sugar was dissolved, then pulled out the cinnamon stick.

I poured it right over the pan and let it soak through. Overnight is best.

And our lovely final product was ready for turkey day.

First things first: the galaktoboureko was not ruined by pumpkin. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about changing the composition of the custard because there was the possibility that the custard wouldn't firm up properly - a runny filling would have made this a mess. But, with 6 full eggs, I think it would take a lot more liquid to do that.

The flavor was just what I wanted - the galaktoboureko custard I know and love with a slight pumpkin flavor (and all that pumpkin color!). Greek infused thanksgiving treats were a success.

I might try baking the bottom few layers of phyllo for a few minutes next time to crispen the dough - since this is a custard, it soaks into the bottom layers pretty easily. We want that, but it might help that bottom portion stay together a little more if I try 5-10 minutes in the oven.

Go on, try it. What can we add next? Throw in some walnuts and call it a galaktobaklava?

Pumpkin Galaktoboureko Recipe


4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup cream of wheat
1 cup brown sugar
6 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup pumpkin, or one half of a 15.5 ounce can
1/2 pound phyllo
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick


In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the whole milk until boiling, then slowly add the cream of wheat and sugar, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken.  Beat the eggs and pumpkin together in a small bowl, then slowly mix into the cream of wheat.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush a 9" x 12" baking pan with butter, then lay a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom.  Brush phyllo with butter, then repeat with 9 more sheets to make the bottom section 10 layers thick.  Pour the cream of wheat filling on next, then repeat the phyllo layers with butter 8 more times or until the 1/2 pound of phyllo is used up.  After buttering the top layer, place the Galaktoboureko in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.  After baking, make the syrup by combining water, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan.  Heat to a boil, then stir frequently for 7-10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.  Cut strips in the Galaktoboureko to let the sauce soak through, then pour the hot syrup over it.

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