The famous Lebanese author Gibran Khalil Gibran used to say that the orient begins where people drink boza. Now hundred years later, we are no longer talking of the orient as such little more does any one mention this wonderous drink that could be sampled only in Bulgaria and Turkey called boza. For me however, boza goes well together only with one thing – Bulgarian banitza or burek. This lovely multi-layered pastry affair has so many flavour variations and could be enjoyed warm or cold anytime of the day. Only the west Balkan countries and Turkey really know how to roll their sleeves and make this wonderous delight that taste nowhere better than home. And home is where I grew up watching how my mother wowed every special guest by throwing this thin dough pastry to stretch over her head over and over again until see-through thin sheets were ready to fold into a delicious burek.
I have learned a lot ever since. I have tried tested French culinary techniques shaping marvelous creations with ease, yet still throwing the thin burek sheets to stretch over my head remains an unachievable mystery. Luckily there are other means to achieving the same goal and my carefully described simple steps below may guide you in preparing your own home made burek with ease.
Biting into a layer of crispy top sheets sinking into a more mellow dough rich with butter and feta cheese will make you wish to savour every crumble, reaching out for more. Dreaming about the orient into your own kitchen does not get (taste) any better then that.
- 300ml lukewarm water
- 1tbsp oil
- 1tsp vinegar
- 1tbsp salt
- 500g flour (sifted)
- 100g butter (or margarine)
- 100g feta cheese
- 1-2 cups of virgin olive oil
1. In a large bowl or jar mix together the lukewarm water, the table spoon of oil and the tea spoon of vinegar.
2. Sift the flour in a very large bowl and add one table spoon of salt. Make a well in the center and gradually start pouring inside the water, oil and vinegar liquid with one hand, while mixing the flour and the liquid with the other. Once all the liquid has been poured over the flour, mix together until the softened mixture starts to stick together. Continue mixing trying to absorb as much as possible from the flour. When you notice that the flour is not getting absorbed anymore flip the dough mixture and the remaining flour on to a clean surface (kitchen top or table). Use the remaining flour to slightly cover the surface and start kneading the dough for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the it becomes not sticky any more, firm and smooth. Cut the dough in 5 pieces and round each one into a small ball. Lightly grease the surface of a kitchen table with oil and put on top of it one of the balls. With your hand flatten the ball into a disk and pour more oil on top of it so it doesn’t dry out. Repeat the same with the remaining balls placing them as disks slightly overlapping one another generously greased with oil in-between. Let them rest for 30 minutes.
3. Pour oil on the top of a kitchen table and smear it together covering the entire surface. Grease the base of an oven baking tray and place it (on a chair) close by the oiled table top. Soften the butter and mix together with a crumbled feta cheese placing them in a bowl ready to be used in a moment. Take one of the disks, place it in the center of the table and pour more oil on top of it. Oil a wooden rolling pin and carefully try to roll the disk out stretching as thinly as possible. Once you notice that with the rolling pin the dough could not be stretched any more, place the wooden rolling pin aside and starting from one side of the disk start to lift the dough allowing air to go underneath and stretch further as much as possible. Repeat several times from all sides of the disk until the dough becomes see-through thin. Sprinkle small bits of mixed butter and feta in the central part of the stretched dough disk. Fold the four sides into an envelop wrapping the feta and butter pieces inside. Place the dough envelop on the pre-oiled baking tray.
4. Oil the table top once more and place the second dough disk in the center. Repeat the same process up to the moment the dough has become fully stretched then take the envelop dough from the tray and place it in the center of the stretched disk. Sprinkle feta and butter mixture over the disk and wrap the second stretched disk in an envelop shape again with the first envelop inside. Repeat this process until all disks have been stretched and wrapped into one large multi-layer envelop. With the smooth side up (envelop shape down) place the ready burek on the baking tray.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the burek inside and let it bake for approximately one hour until golden brown. Take out of the oven and let it rest for 10 min until slightly cool. Cut into squares and serve cold or warm. Delicious for breakfast served with natural yogurt mixed with a spoon of honey.