So sorry this post is long overdue. Between writing progress reports, dealing with PMS, and catching a cold, I couldn’t get myself to finish writing and posting this recipe.
This is my second recipe from A Taste of Greece: Recipes, Cuisine & Culture. Figs are one of my favorite fruits and I look forward to the end of summer each year for fig season. While I love them, I don’t always love them in desserts. I’ve had them in tarts and cakes, but more often than not, I prefer to eat them fresh, so I was a little skeptical going into this recipe.
I cut the recipe in half because Tristan was feeling sick and I didn’t think I could eat 4 servings of this on my own. Turns out, half the recipe was still too much for me.
First, make the custard. Heat the milk over medium heat until it reaches 185°F (85°C). While you’re waiting for the milk to heat, sift the flour and custard powder into a small bowl. The cookbook suggests Bird’s Custard Powder but I couldn’t find that particular brand in my supermarket, so I used the Docello custard powder by Nestlé. Beat in the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Pour this mixture into the saucepan and simmer for a couple minutes until it begins to thicken.
Pour the custard into a bowl (I put mine through a fine mesh sieve), cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. The original recipe says to cook the custard for 4 minutes, but mine became too thick after cooking it for 3 minutes, as you can see in the photo. That photo was taken while it was still hot, and because custard thickens as it cools, it’s obvious it’s too thick to be spread onto the phyllo later on. I ended up having to add a couple tablespoons of milk to the cooked custard to thin it out.
While the custard is chilling, prepare the phyllo pastry. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the lemon juice and honey in a small bowl and heat it up in the microwave until it’s hot, about 20 seconds. Place a sheet of phyllo on the parchment paper and brush with butter, sprinkle on some walnuts, then sprinkle the honey mixture on top. Place another sheet of phyllo over that and repeat the process until you have 10 layers of phyllo pastry. I had to cut the phyllo in half and bake in two batches because my oven was too small. Bake the phyllo in the oven until it’s golden both on the top and bottom. Mine took about 12 minutes. While it’s still hot, cut the phyllo pastry into 6 pieces. Because I had two batches, I cut each batch into 3 rectangles.
Halving the recipe meant I would use 4 figs, but looking at the baked phyllo I realized that 2 fig halves between each layer wouldn’t be enough. Maybe my figs were too small, or perhaps the phyllo sheets were bigger than the ones used in the cookbook. I decided to use 6 figs so I can have 3 halves between each layer, like the photograph in the cookbook shows. I also adjusted the amount of sugar and thyme to the number of figs.
Heat the sugar in a pan and cook until it turns into a light golden caramel. Add the figs and cook for a couple of minutes until all fig halves are coated. Add the thyme and let cool completely.
To assemble, spread some custard onto the first layer of phyllo, place 3 fig halves on top, another layer of phyllo, more custard, more figs, and top with the last layer of phyllo.
While this may be aesthetically pleasing and impressive, it was incredibly difficult to eat. Trying to cut through the layers of phyllo made a huge mess on my plate and my table. Furthermore, each serving is giant. I had a third of a serving and it was more than plenty. If I do make this again, I would serve one fig half on a small square of phyllo. Less mess, and a more reasonable serving size in my opinion.
While I had difficulty eating this dessert in a graceful manner, it was tasty. The flavor of the honey and lemon in the phyllo, the hint of thyme on the figs, the combination of different textures all came together nicely. Was it tasty enough to make again? Maybe if I’m bringing a dessert to a party and it needs to be something small so everyone can try different foods.
Want more recipes from this cookbook? Check out the first recipe I tried out here.