Let me tell you- if you have never had Burek in your life, now is the time my friends. Consider yourself lucky especially if you live in the Clifton, New Jersey are because Cafe Bubamara on Parker Ave carries amazing authentic Burek. There are also other wonderful local restaurants that carry authentic Burek- you’d never know that it was made in the United States.
Burek is a traditional food in Easter Europe. Burek is essentially a phyllo dough filled with seasoned ground beef, feta cheese, or spinach. The outside is crispy and flaky while the inside is ultra thin layers of softer, chewier dough. The ground beef is seasoned with a traditional seasoning called “Vegeta” and black pepper. Burek is traditionally served with a glass of cold yogurt. While many people have it at various times of the day, the most common time Burek is served is in the morning for breakfast.
In some places such as Macedonia, bakeries open in the early hours of the morning, and we are talking 3am, just to get Burek started. Yes. You read that right. A lot of Eastern European bakeries make their Burek fresh on a daily basis and leftovers are very rarely served the next day. This is very impressive, especially if you know how Burek is made. Believe me when I say it is not easy.
The most difficult part of making traditional Burek is the phyllo dough. Although there are only a handful of ingredients in the phyllo dough, It takes, in some cases, years of practice to get it perfect. The difficult part of perfecting the phyllo dough is because it has to be made extremely thin. I’m talking paper thin without breaking it apart. In order to get it thin, you have to get the dough very elastic.
The reason why the dough has to be super elastic is because you need layers of super thin dough. I mean paper thin dough. It sounds easy until you try it for the first time. In order to stretch it paper thin, it needs to be incredibly elastic.
What helps makes the dough elastic:
- Gluten in the flour
- Correct ratio of ingredients
- Proper resting time of the dough
So you have heard me talk about this phyllo dough but you are probably wondering-well- what is the recipe for this Burek phyllo dough. Well, the ingredients for the phyllo dough are: flour, water, salt, vegetable oil, and butter ghee.
The ingredients are difficult to measure because they vary based on moisture in the air. If it’s humid, you will need less water, if they air is dry, you will need more water.
The flour, salt, water, and oil are mixed and the dough is kneaded until fully combined and very soft. Then, it is placed to rest at room temperature coated in ghee. Many people that make this at home, will use oil or butter instead of ghee and that will work just fine. Letting the dough rest contributes to it’s elasticity so this step is extremely important.
After the dough has had time to rest, it is stretched to be paper thin. If you’re an expert, this process takes seconds to a minute. If you’re not, like me for example, it will take you 5-10 minutes to stretch just one section of dough. The paper thin dough is folded many times, which will create thin layers. The center of the dough is filled with the filling of choice. Then, that filled section is placed in another paper thin section of dough.
Have I confused you yet? It’s a process and I don’t recommend it because it takes forever! However, I do recommend a local bakery or restaurant that sells Burek, it never dissapoints!