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Cretan Bougatsa with the Hellenic Odyssey

The Hellenic Odyssey is a culinary project founded by Kelly Michelakis and inspired by her passion for her Cretan heritage, food and travel. A substantial aspect of Greek culture is made up of culinary traditions passed down from one generation to the next. Kelly's cooking classes focus on traditional and authentic home-style cooking.


Earlier this week, we spoke to Kelly about her plethora of culinary offerings, her transition to online classes during the pandemic and her favourite aspect of her job. We're delighted that she has shared with us one of her favourite recipes – Cretan Bougatsa for you to make at home.



While it is most often enjoyed as dessert, Cretan bougatsa can also be served for breakfast! Kelly drew inspiration for her recipe from a small, historic shop in Crete that has been making it's famous bougatsa for more than 100 years. After numerous visits to Crete, and a few years living on the island that her family is from, Kelly recreated the dish using Cretan myzithra cheese.


Kelly's version of Cretan bougatsa uses a three cheese blend of goats cheese for tartness, feta for saltiness, smooth ricotta for creaminess and bechamel sauce to add richness. YUM! Cretan bougatsa is different to the bougatsa you might find in Thessaloniki in the North of Greece which contains a sweet semolina custard filling. In Crete, the Cretans like to mix the sweet with the savoury, so cheese dishes are often accompanied or topped with honey or granulated sugar.


Depending on your Greek heritage or personal taste, Kelly invites you to bake the two parcels and taste one as is, and the other topped with cinnamon and fine caster sugar. We would love to know which bougatsa you preferred.


Ingredients

200mls milk

20g cornflour

20g butter

150g soft goat cheese

100g smooth ricotta

100g Greek Dodoni feta

8 sheets Fillo Pastry (Kelly uses Antoniou Chilled Fillo pastry)

80g butter


Topping: Cinnamon and granulated sugar, to taste


Equipment

1 small bowl

1 medium bowl

2 small saucepans

Pastry brush

Baking tray

Baking paper


Method

1. Mix the cornflour with a quarter cup of milk. Ensure there are no lumps and the mixture is a smooth consistency. Warm the milk slightly and then add cornflour mix to it and stir continuously until it begins to thicken. Once it has bubbled, turn off the heat, add the 20g of butter and continue to mix until it is all well combined and let it cool slightly.


2. Combine all the three cheeses ensuring that they are all mixed well together. You may need to use your hands to incorporate.


3. Add the milk mix to the cheese mix, stir to combine well and set aside.


4. Melt the 80g of butter in a small pot.


5. Using a pastry brush, butter the first sheet of fillo pastry laid horizontally lengthways in front of you. Place a second sheet on top of that and butter that also. Finally place the third sheet on top of that and butter again.


6. With the fourth sheet, butter only half of it then fold over from right to left to create a half sheet, butter the bottom half and fold over again from top to bottom so that it’s in a quarter and then place this in the centre of the three sheet pile. This adds an extra strong layer of insulation so that you can place the cheese mix onto it.


7. If you prefer you can use extra virgin olive oil to brush the pastry with instead of butter.


8. Fold the bottom half of the pastry up, then the top half of the pastry down, butter the pastry and then fold in the sides so the filling has been enveloped.


9. Carefully lift the parcel up and place the seam side down onto a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.


10. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown, crunchy and puffy.


11. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting in the middle vertically and then cutting across horizontally three times so that you have eight pieces.


12. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Best served warm. Do not cut the parcels that you do not intend on serving immediately. To re-warm them they must be in one whole piece.


Καλή όρεξη! We hope you enjoy this delicious Hellenic treat and don't forget to show us your baked bougatsa by tagging #HellenicMuseum.



Kelly Michelakis is a passionate home cook with Cretan heritage. She hosts culinary travel tours to Crete and conducts Greek cooking classes and walking food tours in Melbourne.


Kelly helps people learn how to cook delicious and nutritious food, in a fun and interactive environment, so they can gain the kitchen skills needed to become confident cooks. She looks forward to welcoming you into her home and learning about your food journey while sharing her insights into Greek cuisine and the Greek way of life.


We look forward to Kelly hosting future cooking experiences at the Museum, but while we're still in lockdown, check out the Hellenic Odyssey's upcoming online cooking events here.

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