Oriental sweets

Βergamot spoon sweet in syrup - Γλυκό του κουταλιού περγαμόντο - Veganinathens.com

Bergamot spoon sweet

Spoon sweets are traditional fruit preserves, very popular throughout Greece. They can be made with citrus fruits, sour cherries, grapes, quinces or even tomatoes, small eggplants and rose petals and they are served in tiny crystal bowls with tiny spoons together with a cup of traditional coffee and a glass of cold water as a gesture of hospitality.

Spoon sweets held and hold a prominent role in our lives and their preparation is still considered a special and significant branch of the local culinary art. Their importance is underlined by the fact that many references and stories are found in Greek literature and poetry, related to their special characteristics and their preparation.

Our favorite spoon sweets are those prepared with the peel of citrus fruits, such as bergamot oranges, because they have a fantastic smell, they are chewy and they can be served in many different ways and combinations.

Βergamot spoon sweet in syrup - Γλυκό του κουταλιού περγαμόντο - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 7-8 medium size bergamot oranges
  • sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of half a lemon

Βergamot spoon sweet in syrup - Γλυκό του κουταλιού περγαμόντο - Vegan in Athens

Method

  1. Wash thoroughly the bergamots, wipe them and remove their zest with a fine grater. Zest is very aromatic and I keep it in a jar in the freezer to flavored cakes, creams etc.
  2. With a sharp knife peel them and cut the peels in thin slices, 1 cm thick. Then weigh the peels. This is a very important step, since the weight of sugar that will be used is equal with the weight of your peels. Mine were about 600 grams, so I used 600 grams of sugar.
  3. Put the peels in a large bowl with water for 24 hours. Every six hours change the water. This step is necessary in order to wash out the bitter substances found in the peel.
  4. Drain the peels. In a saucepan pour the sugar with the water to boil. Add the bergamot peels, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir a couple of times in between, turn off the heat and let them set for 12-24 hours. The next day simmer again until the syrup thickens. The syrup consistency may be a challenge, but here are some tips: The syrup is almost ready when the bubbles formed on the surface of the pot have started become denser, almost like foam. To make sure it is ready, pour a drop of syrup on a plate, leave it for one minute to cool and then turn the plate vertically and watch the syrup consistency. It must be thick, almost like honey. But if you want to be on the safe side you can also use a kitchen thermometer. I have found that my spoon sweets are great when their boiling temperature reaches 105-106 oC.
  5. Pour the lemon juice, stir and remove from heat. This step is necessary because lemon prevents sugar from forming crystals.
  6. Transfer while hot in sterilized airtight glass container and turn them upside down until cool. This way the fruit will be preserved for several months. Once a jar is opened, keep in the refrigerator.

Βergamot spoon sweet in syrup - Γλυκό του κουταλιού περγαμόντο - Veganinathens.com

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Vegan, sugar-free Greek custard pie - Galaktoboureko - Βέγκαν γαλακτομπούρεκο με κρέμα μπανάνας χωρίς ζάχαρη- Vegan in Athens

Greek custard pie (galaktoboureko) – vegan and sugar-free

Galaktomboureko is one of the desserts that bring me back to my childhood, back to these sunny and quite Sunday mornings when my mother usually prepared the dessert. As I liked to wake up very early even on Sundays (and I still do), I had the chance to spend time with her in the kitchen -my mother almost always cooks and bakes in the morning- watching, learning and helping in the process. Of course my favorite part was when she cut the first piece of her delectable, freshly baked galaktoboureko, that had already absorbed a substantial amount of fragrant syrup, as I was the one who would try it first, while still hot.

Now as a vegan I still enjoy this delicious dessert in its vegan version of course. For this purpose I modified the traditional recipe to make it a bit more peaceful, simply by replacing cow’s milk with almond milk and butter with a plant-based margarine.

Vegan, sugar-free Greek custard pie - Galaktoboureko - Βέγκαν γαλακτομπούρεκο με κρέμα μπανάνας χωρίς ζάχαρη- Vegan in Athens
But today I had another thought! I was thinking of ways to cut down the sugar that the custard cream and the syrup call for and suddenly I got the idea! So instead of sugar I added some mashed, ripe bananas and agave nectar while instead of a sugary syrup I used raw agave nectar, skipping also the syrup preparation!
The first piece was cut a few hours ago and we enjoyed it hot as I always used to do. Despite the lack of sugar, it has a substantially sweet taste thanks to banana and agave, while the thick cream of galaktompoureko is beautifully enriched with the distinctive fruity banana flavor.

Ingredients
(for a medium baking pan)

  • 6 phyllo pastry (250 grams)
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) margarine, melted

For the cream

  • 300g peeled, ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) agave syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • 3 ¾ cups (900 ml) almond milk, divided
  • 1 cup (150 gr) fine semolina
  • 1 tbsp natural vanilla extract
  • 1 stick cinnamon

For the syrup
1 heaped cup (240 ml) agave syrup or other liquid sweetener

ground cinnamon for dusting (optional)

Vegan, sugar-free Greek custard pie - Galaktoboureko - Βέγκαν γαλακτομπούρεκο με κρέμα μπανάνας χωρίς ζάχαρη- Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Prepare the cream: Put bananas in a blender or food processor along with the vanilla, the agave syrup and 1 ½ cups of milk and blend for 1-2 minutes until a smooth cream forms. Add the semolina and blend for a few more seconds until it is incorporated into the mixture. In a saucepan add the remaining milk with the cinnamon and simmer over low to medium heat. When the milk comes to boil, pour in the banana mixture and cook for another five minutes or until it thickens. Remove from heat, discard cinnamon and cover the surface of the cream with a film or a greaseproof paper to prevent crust from forming.
2. Melt the margarine and use 1-2 tablespoons to brush the baking pan. Brush one phyllo with melted margarine, fold in half and put it in the bottom of the pan. It should cover the bottom and the walls of the pan (or you need a smaller pan!). Repeat the process two more times.
3. Pour the cream over the phyllo and spread with a spatula.
4. Cover the custard with the three remaining phyllo sheets after you’ve brushed them with margarine (with the process described above) and brush the surface with the remaining margarine. Fold the excess phyllo. With a sharp knife scar the surface, sprinkle some water (about ¼ cup). Bake for 50 minutes at about 180 oC or until golden.
5. As soon as the galaktoboureko is out of the oven pour the agave evenly over its surface. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour and serve. It is delicious both hot and cold.

Vegan, sugar-free Greek custard pie - Galaktoboureko - Βέγκαν γαλακτομπούρεκο με κρέμα μπανάνας χωρίς ζάχαρη- Vegan in Athens

Note: Some people love to double the amount of phyllo in galaktoboureko. I am not a big fan of this but I can understand them as sweetened, baked phyllo is delicious. If you choose to use more phyllo, increase accordingly the amount of agave.

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