Meditations

Bulgarian Banica: Belicious!


banitsa-bulgarian-pastry1

Recently a thoughtful friend baked me a savory treat as a thank you gift—something I’d never heard of or tried before. Called Banica (pronounced Ba*ni*tsa), it is a traditional urban pastry in Bulgaria and the Balkans in general, with slight variations here and there. The word is often used to mean crumpled or badly maintained. The one she made me was prepared using filo, Bulgarian feta cheese, eggs and yogurt and looked a little like rope made of bread wrapped into a tight circle. In Bulgaria it is also often eaten with more extra cold yogurt on the side and a fermented beverage called boza.

After re-heating it in the oven for 15 minutes, I served it as an appetizer with dinner and it was a hit. The savoury flavour of the soft feta was lifted by the yogurt inside and the crispy filo pastry gave it a good crunch. No wonder they eat so much of this! It’s delicious. I only wish I had some Bulgarian yogurt and boza to accompany it.

Here is a quick recipe for the Banica:

Preparation:

  1. Spread a package of thin filo sheets on the table. make sure they lay flat and are defrosted to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix crushed Bulgarian Feta cheese, beaten egg, and a little natural flavour yogurt. The the measurements of those are based on a personal preference. In general, the mixture should be soft, not liquid, dominated by the Bulgarian cheese and held together by the egg and yogurt…
  3. In addition, you may add spices to your taste, such as pepper or oregano.
  4. In a small bowl melt some butter and prepare a brush beside it.
  5. Prepare a round pan to the size you desire. Grease and line the pan a thin layer of oil and flour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 to 400F

Assembly:

  1. Assuming the filo you have is thin, it is recommended to use two to three sheets per roll. By lifting half a sheet at a time, drip with the brush a few drops of butter in between the sheets you are going to use for the first roll. This way when baked, the filo sheets stay separated and crisp. Do the same for the top sheet too on which you will put the filling.
  2. With a spoon, spread a row of the mix just inside the outer edge of the filo sheet. Next, gently lift and roll the first roll from one edge to the other – being careful not to press so the filo stays crisp and airy.
  3. Place the first roll in the pans outer edge.
  4. Repeat this process and complete the spiral in the pan from the outer edge to the centre.
  5. Brush the Banica spiral with more butter, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust becomes golden from the top and bottom.
  6. Best to eat when still hot.

Enjoy!

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