Borekas

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 Post by Anna

All over the world, there is somebody, somewhere, getting behind a small pocket of food. Whether the calzone, samosa, piroshky, empanada, hom bow, or the knish—the dough-wrapped-with-stuff formula is adaptable to myriad cuisines and fits in your cupholder. What’s not to love?

I grew up on the boreka. This delicate Sephardic pastry is traditionally filled with potato, feta, and parmesan, and sealed neatly with a folded edge. I remember how silky our mom and grandmother’s hands felt after an oily day in the kitchen, churning hundreds of these out in preparation for the high holidays.

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Though usually reserved for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur meals, when we’d cram the freezer with ziplock bags full in September, I came back to these in fall. On Thanksgiving, when Molly and I were sent home with bowls of leftover mash, a new version of borekas was born.

I used three fillings from the Thanksgiving leftovers — mashed potatoes, roasted squash, and an olive tapenade appetizer smoothed out with ricotta cheese. For boreka filling, you could use all kinds of leftovers. Soften roasted root vegetables with warm milk or butter, or blend eggplant or tomatoes or herbs in a food processor.

Though the process is fairly basic, I’ve eaten borekas 100 different ways. Some pack theirs with savory filling, and others sweet. Some use warm water to make the dough more pliable, and others, like our Noni, swore by ice water for a flaky finished product. Her dough recipe for the classic potato version, below.DSC_1097

Prep: 30 minutes / Cook: 15 minutes / Yields: about 24 borekas 

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 3 scant cups all-purpose flour (more if dough feels too wet)
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2-3 russet potatoes, or 2-3 cups of any soft leftover mash suitable for filling

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Mix flour and salt in a medium sized bowl
  • Combine oil and ice water and slowly pour into bowl of flour, mixing as you pour
  • Once the dough is thick enough to mix by hand, work it into a soft dough. It should feel oily and supple, but come together. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to two days
  • Meanwhile, prep the fillings and preheat oven to 350 degrees. If making from scratch, boil a few peeled russet potatoes in heavily salted water (it should taste like ‘pleasant seawater,’ says everyone important), mash with a masher or fork, soften with butter.
  • Divide dough in half and put half back in the fridge. You want to work quickly and keep remaining dough cold, making it easier to work with.
  • Roll out balls the size of a ping pong ball. Line up three or four, and place a piece of parchment paper over the top — this allows you to do a few layers at once. Roll out with a rolling pin, a few strokes horizontally, then vertically, over the parchment paper, so they are all approximately the same shape. The discs should be a few mm thick, about the diameter of a tea saucer.
  • Roll filling into a ball (or spoon, if too wet), and place in the center of the dough circle, leaving at least an inch for the hem.
  • Fold one side of the circle over the other, picking it up in your hand and pressing together the edges. Doing this in your hand rather than on the table keeps it from sticking to the table.
  • In a quick motion, starting from the outside corner of the hem, roll tiny folds all the way around the edge of the boreka. The trick to making the perfect hem is by pinching the outside of the dough so that the edge is nice and thin. For the real deal, check out this video, around minute 7:05. If this intimidates you, just press the edges down with a fork like an empanada.
  • Lay borekas out on oiled cookie sheet, and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle remaining parmesan, or add any garnish you like.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Borekas freeze well, so you can enjoy them anytime.DSC_1151