Thessaloniki is also known as a crossroads of flavors, a metropolis of tastes, a gastronomic capital. Nowhere else in Greece can one find so many different flavors combined on the same table: the Ottoman palaces heritage and traditions of Greek refugees from Asia Minor or Istanbul, with their own bold, rich cooking identity features, are combined with customs of the Balkan hinterland fashioning the distinct gastronomic profile of the city.
Bougatsa is delicious Greek breakfast, which became known in Thessaloniki when some traditional confectioners from a nearby area moved to the city. This luscious custard pastry became a much loved sweet snack and hundreds of special pastry shops opened where a sweet or salty with cheese, minced meat, or spinach bougatsa is served.
Here is Bougatsa recipe, as featured in the Gastronomic Guide of Thessaloniki, issued during Thessaloniki Food Festival.
1+ 1/2 liter milk
250 gr caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
250 gr fine semolina flour
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 pack filo pastry
150 gr unsalted butter
80-100 gr icing sugar to dust
2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Combine the sugar and milk in a medium size saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stirring constantly, gradually add the semolina and a pinch of salt and cook for
3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover the surface with baking paper and allow cooling completely. Melt the remaining butter and set aside. Unroll the filo pastry and place between two clean tea towels on the benchtop. Brush a 34 x 36 cm cake tin with butter. Brush a sheet of filo with butter and lay it in the tin with the edges overhanging.
Repeat with 6 more sheets changing the angle slightly each time as you lay the filo into the tin (this creates an even edge of filo around the tin). Spoon the semolina custard evenly over the filo. Cover the surface of the tin folding the overhanging sheets buttering one by one. Brush each of the remaining sheets with butter and fan the sheets over the tin to cover the surface.
Brush with butter on the top, place the baking tin in the oven and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool. Combine the icing sugar and cinnamon and generously dust the surface before cutting into slices.
Photo credits: Gastronomic Guide of Thessaloniki