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Bougatsa Ice Cream Adds to Thessaloniki’s Culinary Appeal

Bougatsa ice cream
Bougatsa ice cream. Credit: Protothema

Bougatsa is a favorite treat across Greece, usually eaten at breakfast, but one dessert shop in Thessaloniki has added a new twist to this dish – making a bougatsa-flavored ice cream!

Stelios Rimbas, the creator of the bougatsa ice cream, spoke to a Greek radio station, telling them how the creation of the new dish was largely an accident.

However, Rimbas maintains it took many tests to refine the flavor and create an ice cream that truly reelected the unique taste of the popular Greek pastry.

Bougatsa ice cream

“We started in the winter to make a bun with creams and praline. We made the amount we wanted and there was a small bucket of bougatsa cream left over,” explained Rimbas to the FM4 radio station.

“I was thinking about what to do, how to use it so that the delicious cream would not go to waste and the idea came to me – although we were in mid-December!” he continued. “The test happened and… succeeded.”

The innovative ice cream flavor, which was developed in a dessert shop in the center of Thessaloniki, has the same golden yellow color as bougatsa cream and mirrors its unique taste.

No doubt, the new ice cream will contribute to Thessaloniki’s robust culinary reputation, which is renowned across Greece as the home of several delicious sweets and desserts. The new take on bougatsa has already been a hit with tourists visiting the city.

The traditional dish

Bougatsa is a traditional Greek pastry that is often enjoyed as a breakfast or dessert dish. It consists of a flaky filo pastry filled with a sweet or savory filling. The most common filling for bougatsa is a semolina custard, sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla or lemon zest.

To make bougatsa, thin layers of filo pastry are brushed with melted butter or olive oil and stacked together. The filling is then spread over the pastry, and the whole thing is rolled up and baked until golden and crispy. Once baked, the bougatsa is usually dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

In addition to the classic semolina custard filling, there are variations of bougatsa with other fillings, such as cheese, spinach, or minced meat. These savory versions are often served as a snack or appetizer.

The term “bougatsa” has its origins in Byzantine Greek, specifically the word “pogátsa,” which is derived from the ancient Roman term “pānis focācius,” meaning “hearth bread.” This is similar to the Italian bread known as “focaccia.” It is believed that bougatsa may have its roots in the Roman-era placenta cake, and a similar dessert known as “placenta” is still enjoyed on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Bougatsa is commonly found in Thessaloniki and the Central Macedonia region of Northern Greece. It gained popularity in these areas, particularly in the city of Serres, when Greek refugees from Constantinople introduced it in the 20th century.

The taste and characteristics of bougatsa vary between different regions of Greece. For instance, in Veria, bougatsa is known for being very sweet and rich in cream, while in Thessaloniki, it is characterized by its crispy texture and relatively less sweetness. In Chania, Crete, bougatsa is made with local mizithra cheese and sprinkled with sugar, giving it a distinct flavor profile.

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