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Bougatsa is a type of snack or breakfast pastry from the southeastern European country of Greece that has a custard filling. This food item is made out of phyllo, also known spelled "filo" or "fillo," which is a type of unleavened flour dough characterized by its paper-thinness. Phyllo is widely used in the Middle East and southeastern Europe. Bougatsa originated from the northeastern Greek region of Macedonia.
The custard filling is typically made by beating eggs, milk, semolina, lemon peel, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl, then pouring the mixture into a pan and heating it for up to five minutes, with constant stirring. The end product must have considerable thickness without being lumpy.
To continue making the pastry, another pan is greased with melted butter so that the sheets of phyllo can be laid on it. Once the sheets are spread out in the pan, the custard filling can be poured in. The phyllo is then folded in a manner similar to an envelope, with the excess dough trimmed off. The top of the bougatsa is coated with any remaining melted butter and baked in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) for up to 40 minutes. The pastry is done baking when it features a golden-brown color.
In Macedonia, bougatsa is particularly enjoyed in Thessaloniki, which is the capital of the region’s central area as well as the country’s second-largest city. It is also popular in Crete, particularly in its two largest cities: Iraklion, which is also the island nation’s capital; and Chania, which is Crete’s second largest city. Inhabitants of Chania call the pastry bougatsa Chanion. They prepare the pastry using an unpasteurized cheese made from the milk and whey from goats or sheep, called mizithra.
There are variations on the recipe. The custard filling can be substituted for cheese or minced meat. For example, bougatsa Chanion is filled with cheese and usually served as square pieces primed for dipping in sugar.
As of June 2011, The Serres Chamber of Commerce and Industry, located in Macedonia, holds the record for commissioning the largest bougatsa. This was achieved on 1 June 2008 by 40 bakers. The final product measured about 65 feet (20 meters) long and 2 feet (60 centimeters) wide, with a weight of 401 pounds and 11 ounces (182.2 kilograms).
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