All About Boureka: The Middle Eastern Pies You Shouldn’t Miss
- Aanchal Mathur
Updated : January 25, 2023 13:01 IST
Bourekas were known to be labour-intensive treats and were thus reserved for special occasions such as shiva, brit milah, and—most famously—Shabbat breakfast. Shabbat bourekas were baked on Friday afternoons and kept warm on a heated plate. Today, bourekas are popular throughout Israel, both as a breakfast dish and a common street food
Crispy, buttery, stuffed, and flaky, bourekas are Middle Eastern hand pies that are baked to perfection and are an absolute delight on a snack table. These delectable little dough parcels are laced with hot oil or melted butter and stuffed with a variety of savoury ingredients. Wholesome and nutritious, they make for a satisfying meal any time of day. Originating in Asia as a deep-fried stuffed dumpling known as a "burga," the term "bourekas," derived from the Turkish word "börek" or "burek," refers to a large family of savoury pastries.
Its origin lies with the Turks of central Asia, who moved to what is now the country of Turkey and brought their stuffed burga dumplings with them. The dumpling evolved into a variety of stuffed and layered pastries known as börek. Sephardic Jews who settled in Turkey adopted the pastry, merged it with their version of the same dish called empanada, and adapted it. As a result of a cross between the two, boureka was created: borek + empanada.
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Bourekas were known to be labour-intensive treats and were thus reserved for special occasions such as shiva, brit milah, and—most famously—Shabbat breakfast. Shabbat bourekas were baked on Friday afternoons and kept warm on a heated plate. Today, bourekas are popular throughout Israel, both as a breakfast dish and a common street food. They are most often filled with ground beef, cheese, or vegetables ranging from spinach to eggplant or potatoes.
Traditionally made with homemade pastry, store-bought phyllo dough is widely accepted as a substitute in modern kitchens. If you are planning to make bourekas at home, we’ve got you sorted with a simple recipe to try.
It is filled with creamy and salty feta cheese, kashkaval, and ricotta.
- 2 puff pastry sheets
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Kashkaval cheese
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds for garnish
- As required, use a non-stick cooking oil spray
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine the feta, kashkaval, ricotta, egg, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of black pepper (if using all feta cheese, you may not need to add any salt). Mix the ingredients with a fork until well combined. Make sure to break any large crumbles of feta with the fork. Reserve mixture.
- On a smooth, clean, and lightly floured surface, unfold one of your puff pastry sheets. Use a rolling pin to roll out the sheet to a 12x12-inch square. If using homemade puff pastry, roll your dough out to the same size, a 12"x12" square. Cut the sheet of puff pastry dough into 9 equal-sized squares, each about 4"x4" large.
- Place 1 tablespoon of the cheese filling in the centre of each dough square.
- Fold the squares of dough by grasping one corner and folding it over to the opposite corner to make triangles. Pinch firmly along the outer open edge of the triangles to seal. If you're having trouble sealing the dough and getting it to stick together, wet your finger with a bit of water and run it around the edge of the square before folding—this will help it stick together.
- Repeat this process for the second sheet of puff pastry—roll out the pastry, cut it into squares, add the filling, and seal the triangles.
- Spray your baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line them with parchment paper. Place 9 bourekas on each sheet, evenly spaced, giving them some room to expand during baking.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of cool water. Use a pastry brush to brush a light layer of the egg-wash onto the surface of each boureka. Sprinkle the bourekas with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
- Bake the bourekas for about 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets halfway between the upper and lower racks. Bake until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
- Serve it warm. Store in a sealed container or plastic zipper bag.