Sweet Cheese Filo Pastries
Makes 12 - 16
- 1 pound package filo dough (defrosted if it has been frozen)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- Honey Lemon Syrup:
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 thin slices of lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Cheese and Semolina Filling:
- 4 cups milk
- 3/4 cup very fine cornmeal or semolina
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dry cottage cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and clarified (skimmed off)
- 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Have the filo ready, covered in a damp towel.
For the Honey Lemon Syrup, whisk the sugar, honey and water together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then add in lemon and cinnamon. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-minutes. Cool.
Melt the butter, melt it over low heat, skim any foam that forms off and set aside, keeping half for the custard, and half to brush the filo with later.
For the Cheese Semolina filling, in a 4-quart saucepan, heat milk and semolina, stirring constantly until it reaches the boiling point. Remove from heat; cool 5-minutes.
In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar until somewhat foamy and well-blended. Blend in the dry cottage cheese and then add to semolina mixture. Add 1/2-cup melted butter and lemon rind; blend well. Stir in the vanilla. Spray the top with some non-stick cooking spray and then cover lightly with wax paper and chill 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
To make the pastries, brush a 2-3 sheets of filo with melted butter. Smear on 1/4 cup of filling on the length or side closest to you (which is also, the longer side of the filo). Roll the pastry over (3-4 times) to make it a long 'package, smearing on more butter as you roll up the filo.
Fold it in from the ends, to make a neat pastry square or rectangle. Place on the baking sheet, and brush with additional butter. Score it slightly. Repeat with remaining filo and pastry cream. Bake 30-45 minutes or until pastries are evenly deep, golden brown all over.
Drizzle the cooled syrup over the hot pastries. Return to oven for 5-minutes; let stand 2-hours before serving. If you find the pastries too large, cut into diamonds (in half) or smaller squares.
Comments:Filo dough came a little later than the Exodus of the Jewish people but it is 'ancient enough' and predates puff pastry and certainly has Middle Eastern roots. Marry up a bit of dairy sweet butter with a sheet of filo and fill it with a delectable cheese-semolina filling for a pastry that suits contemporary tastes (and kitchen skills) and offers way-back-when flavor. Use a honey that is full flavored but not too gamey or dark (a flower honey versus buckwheat). If you don't have semolina handy, you can substitute fine cornmeal.