Every time I visit my favorite wine shop in town, the owner’s wife chats me up about what I’m cooking lately. The last time I was in, she told me her secret, no-fail dessert recipe for ruffled phyllo with a rich custard. According to her, this dish is a must have with her friends and it is perfect because in the time it takes to bake the phyllo she can fix her hair. After pouring the custard over it and putting it back in to finish baking, she manages to put on her makeup! Perfect…two birds, one luscious dish!
I searched for the exact recipe and came up with a few variations on the “ruffled milk pie” theme. The recipe that follows is my interpretation based on my friend’s directions, what I found in my research, and my own modifications and enhancements.
This dessert would be an interesting addition to an Easter brunch. It is rich in flavor…orange, cinnamon, vanilla, apricot, and walnuts…but still airy and light. The chewy, slightly tart apricots are like little jewels dotted in the crispy top of phyllo.
9 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed (I used Athens brand)
4 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest of one small orange
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or vanilla bean paste)
1/4 cup apricots, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a 8×8 or 9×9 inch square pan with some of the melted butter and set aside.
Unroll the phyllo sheets. Keep them covered with a piece of plastic wrap with a damp paper towel on top to keep the dough from drying out. Working with one sheet at a time, brush the sheet with some of the melted butter. Bring the sides of the sheet together in a loosely pleated/ruffled fashion. Roll the dough into a spiral to make a rosette shape. Repeat with remaining sheets. Place the rosettes into the pan in rows of three. Dust the top with the ground cinnamon. Bake in the oven 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
Heat the milk, cream, zest, and cinnamon sticks over low heat while the phyllo is in the oven. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Just before the phyllo comes out, slowly add some of the heated milk mixture into the eggs and sugar while whisking to temper the eggs. Keep adding the milk to the eggs until it is all combined into a custard mixture. Discard the zest and cinnamon sticks.
Remove the phyllo when it is golden. Ladle the custard mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle the apricots and walnuts evenly over the top of the phyllo and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 20 to 25 minutes until the custard is set. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.