Wednesday, February 21, 2007

finally, a recipe!

so, i guess it's about time i finally posted something about one of my favourite snacks and visually explained what exactly a bureka is, especially considering it's in my blog title and also my moniker ..... this, then, is also for a few people who have asked or emailed me about posting something about it.

ok, so it's not a secret that jewish people are a little concerned with food. what would life be without good things to eat? whatever the occasion may be, we eat. it's also no surprise that every single celebration involves shoving food in one's mouth. many of the most amazing items central to jewish table are carbohydrate based — now seen as enemy number one — and burekas are no exception.

the bureka (boo-ray-kah) is really the sephardic equivalent to the ashkenazi "knish" and is as integral to the sephardic table as knishes are to the eastern european (ashkenazi) one. it's also a bit of a term of endearment for something small and good.

burekas are different things to different people and can go by other names depending upon who is eating them. they can be found from such diverse areas as north africa to the mediterranean and further to central eastern europe. while they look like miniature spanish emapanadas, the origin is said to be the borek, a turkish filled [often] savoury pastry. the jewish sephardic version is obviously linked to its spanish pre inquisition past.

in short, this snack item is some kind of dough shaped in a variety of ways to envelop either a meat, vegetable or cheese filling. the dough can be made in one of three ways: an oily flaky dough, a puff pastry type dough or filo. the traditional way is with either the oily one or filo. those made with puff pastry are easier and faster to make with a preprepared, often frozen, product. they are extremely popular and often their shapes are a give away as to what is you'll find inside. they can also be known by other names like bulemas, boyos, or filakos and filled with gooey and luscious melted cheese[s], spinach or eggplant. i'll eventually post the different ways to make some of them with the other doughs and filling variations.

the ones i am showing here are the standard plain kind and have been made the "homemade" traditional way as was/is done on thursdays or fridays for the sabbath [though they are commonly kept in stock as an everyday snack]. it also helps to have extra hands available to speed up the tedious cutting, rolling and stuffing process. usually these things are made in batches of 100 or so! why make 24 when you can make 240? you know you'll eat them all :-O

potato and cheese burekas

dough ingredients:
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt, heaped
1/4 c + 1 tbsp veg oil
~1/2 c very hot water
1 tsp lemon juice

[gomo] filling ingredients:

2 very large potatoes [floury kind, not waxy]
feta or drained ricotta (about 1 1/4 c)
2 tbsp parmesan or romano cheese, optional but use if adding ricotta
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

*n.b. that these can made parve for shabbat by using only potatoes; just substitute 1 1/4 c or so of fried onions in place of the cheese, or use cooked chopped spinach plus and 1 egg, and increase the amounts of pepper and seasonings. they can also me made vegan by omitting the egg and dairy components [replace ricotta with crumbled tofu and use soymage for parmesan & some nutritional yeast]; use soymilk or enerG to coat the pastries.

1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water
sesame seeds

makes approx. 2 dozen


place flour and salt in a bowl and mix well.

add the oil and then the very hot water, 1/4 c at a time to the flour and mix to make a shaggy dough. you may need the full 1/2 c or a little less. once formed, you are aiming for a soft dough which is also firm.

knead the dough for a few minutes without flour and set it aside well covered. it must rest for at least one hour.

don't skip this step or you'll have problems rolling it out as the gluten needs to fully relax. at this point, make the filling.

boil the potatoes in their jackets and let cool until you can safely handle them. they should still be very warm. peel them and then mash well. they should have a bit of texture. use floury potatoes and not waxy ones. place them in a medium bowl.

mash the feta and add it to the potatoes. if you're using ricotta, strain it if watery and then add it to potatoes. add the parmesan or romano and spices and mix will.

using a tablespoon, measure out 22 or 23 portions. set this aside.

now take the dough out of bowl and cut 23 or 23 portions of dough about the size of a very large marble [like a big rounded tablespoon]. the dough will feel oily — this is good. it will sometimes have whitish pock marks on it. that's fine (i think it's a reaction with the starch in the flour).

working with one or two pieces of dough at a time (keep the other ones covered so they don't dry out), flatten them to a round with your fingers.

take a good rolling pin — some people even use a strong walled drinking glass, and roll out the dough to a thin circle about 2.5 or 3 inches. you do not use flour here as the oil will prevent it from sticking.

fill a small dish with water. put half the filling in the middle and take your finger and shmear water all along half the bottom edge like you are making a happy face. wipe it back and forth several times to work up the starch so the edges will stick better. it will turn whitish.

fold the top half over and press down well for the first sealing.

now take a fork and press down really well to seal for the second time.

set these aside as you make them. don't forget to cover them.

if you want to make fancy edges, i hope you have time and patience :) we always made them this way but it's a lot of work. {note that you need a good 3/8 to 1/2 inch to work with so don't overstuff the burekas if you're trying this or they'll most likely open up when they bake; mine was a bit short here in the picture. and don't be discouraged as it takes practice!}.

here's how: make the first seal.

now, make the first fold over the top right edge.

then right over it, fold again and continue all the way around.

you need a thin edge to get this to work properly and adept fingers. good luck, if you try them this way.

fancy, eh? (lol)
preheat oven to 350F.

once they have all been formed, make your egg wash and get a pastry brush.

at this point, you can prick them with a fork 3 times before the egg wash. i do it after but it can be tricky as the egg makes the dough a bit sticky. either way is fine. do not skip this step as the steam inside needs to escape or the burekitas will open up.

egg wash all the pastries and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.


bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

they can be served warm or at room temperature. keep in the fridge.



Pam said...

Sigh. How do I get one of those 'love' emoticons on here?

I spent the summer after graduation in Israel with my classmates - and burekes were the evening snack of choice. I've never made a dough from scratch - just used puff pastry. I have to your recipe!


beenzzz said...

Very delicious looking!!!! I would love to try these. I'm not good with pastries. I don't have the knack for making them. :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, thanks for all those great explanations and the recipe! You are a skilled cook!
I love those kinds of baked goods and could eat tons of them anytime!!!
I particularly like the ones with spinach and feta (or gooey cheese);-P. Lately I made some "Sambusak" with ground beef, pinenuts and spices (allspice, cinnamon, etc...). They were absolutely gorgeous...

Linda said...

wowsers those look yummy. i've never made/had/seen up close any bureka ever! in honor of you, i most certainly MUST try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

Roberto said...

Now I know what a bureka means(just about time!). I was thinking you didn't want to reveal your superman identity but I guess now those burekas are yor kryptonite since they look so yummi.

burekaboy — said...

pam - i totally LOVE the puff pastry ones, perhaps a bit too much. the cheese ones are the best! :D

this recipe is easy but the texture is different and the pastry is very thin.

beenzzz - thanks :) yep, pastry making can be difficult if you don't have the knack for it (or the patience). seems to come more naturally for some than others.

rosa - glad you liked it :D i will posting sambussa in a few weeks for the holiday of purim. stay tuned. yours sounds very good. i love them too.

hi linda - this is only one kind of bureka. they are actually very much like a vegetarian mini empanada. hope you like them if you give it a go. let me know how it goes or if u need e-help.

roberto - wow, the mystery is finally revealed. now don't go stealing all my kryptonite! ;P entiendes?!

Princess Jibi said...

Bureka Boy... this makes me so wanna move to Quebec.. I love potatoes.. This looks so good. Why must u live so far...
One of these days am going to make this... When I have my own little kitchen... And a little helper...
Do you really make all these yourself?

Sorry for not postin any comments long.. Browsers Problem...

TopChamp said...

They look a bit like mini cornish pasties.

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

topchamp - yeah, but without the lard in the pastry! :)

bb - you have some of these left over, right? want to send 'em my way? :D

burekaboy — said...

PJ - hehe, you always have nice compliments for me :) don't worry about commenting ... if and when you have the time or want to, of course. i look forward to your comments.

TC - never had cornish pasties though i've heard of them for a very long time.

emily - what?!? you never got the fedex i sent???? ;P

Vidya said...

I searched on your blog some 2 months back looking for your namesake, but never got around to asking you about it. I'm glad you posted this recipe. I made bureka this weekend, of course my version of it.

Here are the list of my changes:
- AP flour + Atta
- no salt or lemon juice in dough
- mashed potatoes with cream cheese and black pepper filling
- no egg wash
- no sesame on top

Verdict: It was alright, of course the whole wheat flour made it dense. Next time I'll change the filling to be similar to samosa filling with potatoes, onions and peas, I'm sure I'll like it better. I used cream cheese only because I had bought a packet in early January and it was about to expire.

I see that you have mentioned nutritional yeast as part of your vegan filling suggestion. I also made pizza this weekend, to enjoy while watching the oscars. Instead of buying those packets of active yeast, I bought nutritional yeast from the bulk bin, not because I knew what I was doing, but because I wanted to save myself the hassle of opening packets. I like to scoop stuff not mess around trying to open packets. Anyway, I used it in the dough for pizza, of course it didn't bubble when I tested with warm water and honey, or rise the dough. But I was able to make the thinnest crust pizza I have ever made, so from now on I'm sticking with this version. Sometimes stupidity can lead us to salvation, what say you :)

burekaboy — said...

vidya - yes, i was so lazy about posting about burekas for some reason. it took me a very long time to do it. it's partially done now; i still have a few other versions to add in the future.

sorry to hear the burekas weren't a hit. i've never made them with the addition of a wholewheat (atta) flour. maybe using wholewheat pastry flour which can be bought at a healthfood store would make a better (or should i say healthier?) crust. i would keep the lemon juice or vinegar in it; it does seem to make a difference and is imperceptible taste-wise. was it the crust or filling or both that you found disappointing? i'm sure a samosa type filling would be great inside. i didn't have the ingredients at the time but we use a filling which is called "handrajo" which is eggplant, zucchini and tomato. a cheese filling is also extremely good. let me know if you're interested.

LOL, about the nutritional yeast. the yeast is more for flavour than anything and will NOT leaven anything. it is more a flavour supplement and has a cheese like flavour; it's very popular with the vegan crowd. i actually like it a lot though it could be considered an acquired taste. glad to hear your crust came out so well. i love a thin crust. a fortuitous accident!

chanit said...

Yummy !!
איזה מקסים,נראה טעים מאוד מאוד, תודה

burekaboy — said...

תודה רבה

הרבה עבודה להכין אותם אבל כדאי בדעתי

Vidya said...

Don't take my verdict very seriously. For the life of me, I cannot follow a recipe. I think your pita recipe was the first one in a long time that I followed to the T. I usually scan a recipe, make mental notes and then someday when cooking do something similar. I never expect it to turn out like the original. To tell you the truth, I can never reproduce even my recipes, I add and subtract based on what I have or don't have, so it is always a variation of what I have made before.

I felt that the filling needed some oomph, so next time I'll make a spicy, samosa filling, that's all. I wasn't disappointed or anything with my burekas ver 1.0.

Vidya said...

Don't bother so much about my verdict. For the life of me, I cannot follow a recipe. I think your pita recipe was the first one in a long time that I followed to the T. I usually scan a recipe, make mental notes and then someday when cooking do something similar. I never expect it to turn out like the original. To tell you the truth, I can never reproduce even my recipes, I add and subtract based on what I have or don't have, so it is always a variation of what I have made before.

Bureka ver 1.0 was ok, I'll change the filling to suit my palate, that should do it.

burekaboy — said...

vidya - ohhh, you're one of those types! :D (LOL) just joking with u. i often change recipes around too but usually i try to stick with the original version the first time around unless there is something i don't like or feel is missing.

i was just wondering, more or less, if the recipe had worked properly as explained here but you already answered that :)

keep me posted on the "vidya version" if you try it again in the future.

Maninas said...

With instructions as perfect as yours, I really have not excuse not to make it! :)

burekaboy — said...

maninas - thanks :) these are actually called borekitas (small ones) but people call them burekas also. the other burekas which i have posted yet are different shapes and can be made with either puff pastry dough or phyllo instead of this kind of dough.

Lorrie said...

Oh burekaboy! I am addicted to this site. I am going to make these tomorrow for dinner. They look like polish pierogi no? The filling sounds similar. OK ... here is the million dollar question... I don't know the difference between a waxy potato and I totally forgot what the other kind was. Can you please help me so I don't end up with a mess?

burekaboy — said...

hey lorrie - addicted, huh? LOL. hopefully, the charm won't wear off too soon ;)

yes, in a way they are kinda pierogi-ish when i think of it. they are a variation of a turkish pastry called boreg, in fact.

i do have to tell you, making them is a lot of work (not to dissuade you) so you may want to make them bigger than i say here, maybe making the round like the size using a drinking glass -- just take bigger pieces of dough but you'll end up with fewer burekas. the size i make them in my blog recipe are snack size but they will work fine as a side dish.

floury potatoes are the idaho or russet kind whereas waxy ones are usually the red ones (sometimes white). the skin looks shiny on those kind. they're also usually used for potato salad.

i gather you're making these vegan style, so you can add fried onions instead of the cheese. if you are using cheese, you can also add grated mozzarella to the mix. if you aren't using egg to glaze them, you may want to use something like ener-g egg replacer to glaze them or a water and cornstarch mixture.

in any case, it's important to taste the filling beforehand as you cannot change it afterwards. season the filling well. i have made them fairly plain in the recipe i posted but that's the way we eat them.

hope that helps :) good luck. remember, it takes practice and patience to make burekas from scratch, so don't get discouraged if they aren't perfect first time around!

Monica said...

Got your page through a friend website:

I love burekas I'd tasted it at a Bulgarian immigrant coffee shop here in São Paulo, I'm lucky to have the opportunity to have so much cultural varieties.

I'll try your recipe someday!
Best regards,

burekaboy — said...

monica - hi there and welcome! thanks for your nice comment and telling me about the link to my blog.

i'm not sure if these are similar to the bulgarian ones - they may be (just in a different shape). many jews of sefardic descent settled in bulgaria.

living in cities which have diverse cultures is a great thing. my city also has every kind of cuisine / food you can imagine.

best to you for 2009. thanks for the visit!