The universe has a funny way of bringing recipes under one’s radar.
Some years ago (too many to remember!) I saw a recipe for Souffra in The West Australian from Despina Tanner of Boucla frame (a fabulous little cafe in Subiaco). Matt Preston was visiting Perth at the time and had the good fortune of trying the Souffra at Boucla, and proclaimed it to be the “best I have had”. So obviously I saved the recipe as a “to do” for later. But later never came!
Then a month ago I mentioned the recipe to a dear friend who has a gorgeous Greek man in her life and shared it with her … she made it that weekend and declared it to be “delicious”.
Two weeks further down the track I was at a cafe in Ardross Street, South Perth, when I had an “apple pastry” which looked delightful … on first bite I knew straight away it was an adapted version of Souffra, so again the recipe “arose from the ashes” towards me!
Since then I have made it three times to “get it right” … it is amazing how one can interpret a recipe, and find things don’t quite work the way you expect them too. So it has taken time to discover how to best get the filling evenly distributed amongst the filo so that the pastry is not “raw” after baking, with too much custard pooling on the base and not enough in the filo itself.
I now know the best way to do this is to “concertina” or “fan” each sheet of pastry, then place them in the cake tin so that the slits are upright creating little grooves or pockets to catch the filling making this a most delicious (and easy) dessert.
Just in case you decide to try it yourself, let me share with you that initially I loosely rolled each sheet of filo before coiling them into the cake tin, and whilst this looked good, much of the custard fell either side of the rolls onto the base so that the filo on top tasted “raw” and was not all that pleasant to eat.
Due to nut allergy in my family I used roasted pepitas and sunflower seeds instead of pistachios as the topping, and to make them extra special I followed the process for making “maple roasted pecans” (see here) so that the seeds had a bit more flavour. You can do this too or just toast them and keep plain. To toast nuts and seeds place them on a baking tray into a preheated 180 degree fan forced oven for 5 minutes, remove and turn over, then bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely golden (cooking time depends on size of nuts/seeds and personal preference). Once baked and cooled they will keep in the fridge for some time so do more than you need and use them for other dishes (i.e. top of salads or other desserts).
In terms of the filo pastry I don’t like using frozen filo as it tends to be more delicate and difficult to manage, so I use the unfrozen Antonio brand which is in the fridge section of the supermarket. Use it straight from the fridge.
To make cinnamon sugar mix 1 part ground cinnamon to 3 parts golden caster sugar – keeps well in the pantry.
- 375g packet filo pastry (I use Antonio which is not frozen)
- 200g butter, melted
- 600g cream
- 220g golden caster sugar, or caster sugar
- 6 x 60g eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes, or ½ tsp fine sea salt
- Cinnamon sugar for dusting
- 120g toasted pistachios, or
- 120g toasted pepitas and sunflower seeds for nut free option
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees fan forced, and place rack into middle of oven
- Brush a little of the melted butter onto sides of a solid (not spring form) 27 to 28cm round baking tin (base measurement) and line base with a circle of baking paper
- Remove filo from package, and keeping the stack of pastry sheets together, place them to the right of your cake tin with the narrow end closest to you
- Starting from the narrow end put your hands either side of each pastry sheet, lift the edges and then fold in a concertina fashion (like a fan) as you work your way up the pastry sheet until you get to the end (hard to explain … look at the pics in the post)
- Once you have done your first sheet, coil it loosely into a scroll around your index finger, and place it into the middle of the cake tin
- Continue “fanning” the rest of the sheets, placing them around the scroll in the middle until all the sheets are used up, and the entire base of the tin is covered in filo
- Brush the rest of the melted butter over the filo ensuring you coat them evenly right up to the edge of the tin
- Place tin in oven and bake 15 minutes until golden but not burnt, remove and put aside whilst you get the custard ready (I check it at 10 minutes to see where it's at, but always bake for 15 minutes)
- Remove tin from oven and reduce oven temp to 180 degrees fan forced
- Place cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt into TM bowl and mix 20 seconds / speed 4 (or you can mix in a bowl by hand, but pass mix through a strainer to ensure it is smooth with no lumps of egg)
- Pour custard evenly over the filo, then very lightly press down on the pastry with the back of a spoon to ensure it is all coated in the custard (it will bob around a little as it sits on top of the custard but that is fine … you just want to ensure the filo has been dampened by the custard so that it bakes up nicely)
- Bake for 25 minutes until golden (the pastry may puff up a little but don’t worry … when it is removed from the oven and starts to cool the pastry will drop and even out)
- Remove from oven and dust generously with cinnamon sugar whilst it is still warm, allow to rest for at least 30 minutes
- Souffra can now be served warm straight from the baking tin (I wouldn’t risk trying to turn it out as the custard will still be warm and may dislodge from the base of the Souffra)
- Or once it is cold (in about two to three hours depending on weather) you can turn it out onto a serving plate and serve it straight away, or put into the fridge to get completely cold (which is how I like it)
- NB: To get the Souffra onto a serving plate, run a knife around the inside edges of the cake tin, place a tray over the top of the tin, then holding the two together turn them over so that the Souffra drops onto the tray, remove the cake tin (the baking paper should still be stuck to the base, if not remove it), place your serving plate over the base of the Souffra and flip over both the serving plate and the tray together at the same time so that the Souffra is now right side up
- Dust with a bit more of the cinnamon sugar and sprinkle with the toasted nuts or seeds
- Leftovers will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days, just remove 15 minutes before serving to take the chill of it