After the quick and easy recipe post of last week, this week I have for you the very opposite…
The recipe here, from the fabulous traditional Sephardic cuisine, requires some preparation and practice. However, the result is so tasty and unique, that I’m sure that once you’ll make and taste these wonderful savory pastries, you will see they are well worth the effort.
The recipe here is from my maternal grandmother, who grew up in the Sephardic community of Izmir. Here is an interesting quote from Wikipedia, about the origins of the pastry: “Virtually all sources agree on the Judeo-Spanish roots of boyoz. It is a contribution to İzmir’s urban culture by Sephardic Jews evicted from Spain after 1492 and who settled in large numbers in a number of prominent Ottoman cities of the period, among which İzmir stood out as one of the primary destinations. These explanations on the roots of boyoz are confirmed by the presence of a pastry very similar to boyoz in the culinary traditions of such other offshoots of Spanish culture as Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico, where they are common especially in the diet of Sephardic Jews, usually with cheese and spinach fillings.”
Unlike what the first sentence in there says, that Izmir “is practically the only city where it is prepared for commercial purposes and follows the original recipe”, Israel, where the majority of the Jews from Izmir moved to, is another place where the pastries are sold commercially and are well known and loved all over the country, by people of all origins.
For more information about Sephardic origins, check out this post.
The pastries are traditionally prepared for weekend brunch, and served with fresh small diced vegetables salad, yogurt and hard boiled eggs on the side. They are also perfect for mid-week breakfast, lunch, or even a light dinner.
A few notes:
* The dough is a type of Fillo/Strudel dough, with the difference that you stretch it using oil.
* The dough needs to “rest” for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before stretching. So plan ahead accordingly.
* Since the dough and filling require early preparations, is makes sense to make a fairly large amount, especially since the baked pastries freeze well, in an airtight container, for up to 2-3 weeks. Just make sure to bring them to room temperature and reheat them in a toaster oven, NOT in the microwave, and you’ll be able to enjoy an almost fresh-like pastry.
* Don’t let the amount of oil for the “resting” stage intimidate you. It is not absorbed in the dough while “resting”, and you will see at the end of the process that most of it remains in the pan.
* Don’t be tempted to use bread flour – the dough will turn out too dense. AP flour works best here.
Prep time: 30 minutes for the dough + 30 for the fillings
Resting time: minimum 4 hours, preferably overnight
Shaping time: about 30 minutes
Baking time: 30-35 minutes
For the dough:
2.75 lbs (1kg 250 grams) AP flour
2 cups water (+ up to 1/2 cup, if needed)
3 Tbs light olive oil or safflower oil
3 Tbs white vinegar
1 tsp salt
For the dough “resting” stage: 2 cups oil
Filling options: (all seasoned with salt and black pepper):
1. Thinly cut Swiss Chard, topped with finely grated Pecorino cheese.
2. Cooked mixture of grated onions, zucchini and tomato paste.
3. A mixture of mashed cooked potato, feta cheese and an egg.
For assembling: 2-3 Tbs raw Tahini (optional), sesame seeds
1. Place all the dough ingredients in a mixer bowl, fitted with the kneading hook. Start mixing on slow speed, until the dough incorporates, scraping the sides a few times. Increase the speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to the bowl. If you see that the dough is still not forming properly, add the extra 1/2 cup water. * Note that the dough is quite stiff. If your mixer motor is not very strong, make sure to stop it now and then, so that the motor will not burn. *
2. Pour 2 cups oil into a deep medium size pan. Divide the dough into 30 balls of 2.2 oz (60 grams). Roll each dough ball in the oil and place them, in one layer, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, at room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the fillings: thinly cut the washed and drained Swiss Chard leaves (keep the stems to prepare a cooked salad, as shown HERE) and place on a kitchen towel to dry out (preferably overnight). Cook the mixture of grated zucchini, onions and tomatoes, with a bit of oil and tomato paste, salt and pepper, until well cooked and without liquids (this too can be done a day ahead). Cook the potatoes in their skin, let cool and peel. Mash roughly and add feta cheese, egg, salt and pepper.
4. After at least 4 hours, or on the following day, line 2 baking sheet pans with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 355F (180C).
5. Take one dough ball, with some of the oil, and place it on a large, smooth work space. Pat the dough flat with the palm of your hand and start pressing it gently, to flatten it. Now, very gently, with your fingers, start pressing and pulling the dough from all sides, so it stretches and turns into a paper-thin circle, about 9.5” (24cm). If using, mix the Tahini with a bit of oil from the pan, and drizzle a bit over it.
5. Filling: The Swiss Chard: place a generous handful of the cut Swiss Chard at one end of the circle. Top with a bit of the cheese, salt and pepper. Gently fold the dough over the filling, and roll into a roulade, then form it into a spiral. Place in the baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
The zucchini or potato-cheese filling: fold the dough ends, from all sides, towards the center, creating a square. Place a tablespoon of the filling on the center and fold into a triangle or a rectangle. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the pastries are golden-brown.