Sunday, September 24, 2023

Bulgarian Banitsa

Bulgarian Banitsa is a beloved traditional pastry that boasts layers of flaky filo dough filled with a savory mixture of eggs, yogurt, and cheese. This versatile dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, as a snack, or as a delightful addition to any meal.

Must Try Main Courses

It is made with layers of thin filo pastry sheets filled with eggs, yogurt, and sirene cheese (or feta as a substitute). Banitsa can also be made with different fillings, such as spinach or pumpkin, but the cheese version is the most popular. This savory treat is enjoyed warm and at room temperature, making it perfect for any occasion.

Preparation time: Approximately 30 minutes, plus 40 minutes of baking time

Ingredients (for four people)

  • 250g filo pastry sheets (about 10-12 sheets)
  • 200g sirene cheese (or feta cheese as a substitute)
  • 150g plain yogurt (preferably Bulgarian or Greek-style)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • Sunflower oil or vegetable oil for greasing the baking dish
  • Optional: 1 tbsp sesame seeds or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

Method to prepare

  1. Preheat your oven to 180簞C (350簞F). Grease a 23cm x 33cm (9″ x 13″) baking dish with sunflower oil or vegetable oil.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, crumble the sirene cheese (or feta) with a fork. Add the yogurt and mix well. Then, whisk in the eggs until thoroughly combined.
  3. Unroll the filo pastry sheets and place them on a clean, dry surface. Keep a damp cloth nearby to cover the unused sheets while working to prevent them from drying out.
  4. Place one filo sheet in the greased baking dish, allowing the edges to overhang the sides. Brush the sheet with melted butter. Repeat this process, layering 4-5 more filo sheets and brushing each with melted butter.
  5. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the layered filo sheets.
  6. Continue layering the remaining filo sheets on top of the cheese mixture, brushing each sheet with melted butter. Fold the overhanging edges of the bottom filo sheets over the top layer and brush with more melted butter.
  7. Using a sharp knife, score the top layers of filo pastry into squares or triangles, ensuring not to cut through the cheese layer.
  8. Bake the banitsa in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
  9. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before cutting through the score lines to serve.

Tips and Tricks

  • Filo pastry can dry out quickly, so keep the unused sheets covered with a damp cloth while working.
  • For a lighter version, use cooking spray or a light oil brush instead of melted butter to coat the filo sheets.
  • Feel free to experiment with different fillings like spinach, cheese, pumpkin, and cinnamon.
  • If you can’t find sirene cheese, feta is an acceptable substitute.

Storage Suggestions

Banitsa is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. To reheat, warm it in a preheated oven at 150簞C (300簞F) for 5-10 minutes or until heated through. Banitsa can also be frozen before baking. Wrap the assembled, unbaked banitsa tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake the frozen banitsa directly from the freezer, adding 5-10 minutes to the original baking time or until golden brown and crispy. Make sure to monitor it closely to avoid overcooking.

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