Posted in culinary
The Greeks make ingenious use of phyllo sheets to replace flour in cakes. The delicate sheets absorb delicious liquids, just as flour does, but produce a completely different texture, unlike that of familiar cakes. Multiple layers of the paper-thin sheets are entwined and soak in the flavors of sugar, cream, milk and spices. Wonderful.
The cake is easy to make. First, the phyllo sheets are brushed with melted butter, and rolled into a large spiral and baked. Then, a filling of eggs, sugar, cream, milk and spices is poured over the baked sheets, and they are baked a second time. The dominant spice used is cardamom, whose aroma is warm and sensual. Using cardamom is “the best,” but if you don’t like cardamom or orange blossom water, skip them. Even with only vanilla, the cake is very delicious, with a classic flavor. The double baking creates a wonderful range of textures; the outside is crispy and crackles in your mouth while the interior is moist, soft, sticky and intoxicatingly fragrant.
26 cm diameter cake pan
10-14 sheets of phyllo (depending on the size of the sheets)
50 grams of melted butter
For the filling:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) 38% sweet cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/4 cup almond flour (finely-ground almonds) or 2 Tbls. semolina
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom (ground from whole, green cardamom, not just the seeds)
1/2 tsp. high quality vanilla puree or extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. orange blossom water – optional, you can replace it with cognac.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees, and line the pan with baking paper.
- Remove the phyllo sheets from the refrigerator, spread them on the work surface and cover with a clean towel. Place a bowl with 50 grams of melted butter and a brush next to you.
- Place a sheet of phyllo on a work surface with the wider edge side facing you (immediately cover the remaining sheets with a towel) and brush it quickly with a thin coating of butter. Fold like an accordion into a long, narrow, layered sheet (it should be ragged). Wrap around itself into spiral, and place in the center of the pan.
- Repeat the process with each sheet individually, and position each folded sheet around the central spiral, forming a larger spiral, until it reaches the edge of the pan.
- If there is any butter left, spread it on the spiral.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- While it is baking, place the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl, and use a manual whisk (or hand-held electric mixer) to whisk for a minute. Add milk, sweet cream, almond flour and all the spices, including the orange blossom water, and mix lightly.
- Remove the pan from the oven, pour the mixture over the baked phyllo, and return to the oven for another 30-35 minutes.
- Before serving, dust with powdered sugar. The cake is delicious served warm.