Thursday, June 12, 2014

Easy Cheese Borek

Borek is a staple in any Armenian household. The terminology is Turkish in nature, but I've never met an Armenian who hasn't enjoyed borek in some shape or form. Even Georgians have their own version which is called khachapuri (it's shaped a bit differently too).

Basically, everyone in the Caucasus area has their version of a cheese turnover, sometimes stuffed with different fillings. A fried Russian version I personally love as well is called Pirozhki (and also features various fillings--I'm a fan of the ground meat and mashed potato varieties more so than the cheese).

Every family has their own version of making this pastries. For borek in particular, some people use phyllo dough, but puff pastry is a common and much easier alternative. My mom has mastered the art of borek-making, and I always look forward to family gatherings where she whips these up. They are so easy to make, and are truly a perfect last minute appetizer or snack, especially if you have a stash of puff pastry in your freezer at any time.

I prefer Bulgarian feta for all my feta needs, but you can use any feta cheese for these boreks. You can also include some finely chopped parsley or dill (I don't care for dill so that's never an option I go for) to add a bit of color and flavor to the filling, but otherwise these babies require minimum ingredients.

We usually make larger boreks (nine per puff pastry sheet), but I recently assembled some mini boreks to take to game night at a friend's house. Not only were the boreks cuter and easier to snack on, but they browned up beautifully and were super crispy. I used some Trader Joe's brand puff pastry this time, which I actually think I prefer to Pepperidge Farm, but use whatever you can get your hands on.

Easy Cheese Borek
Makes 18 (or 32 mini boreks)

1 (16-to-17.3 oz) package puff pastry (contains 2 sheets, folded into thirds or rolled--depending on brand)
1 3/4 to 2 cups crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese*
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (optional)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Thaw the puff pastry and unfold/unroll it. Cut it along the folds (if folded) into three strips. If making mini boreks, cut into four strips. If using Pepperidge Farm brand puff pastry, it may be a little thicker than other brands (such as Trader Joe's, which is thinner). In that case, gently roll each piece lengthwise on a lightly floured surface until it is about 10 to 11 inches in length. Then cut each long rectangle into three squares. If making mini boreks, cut each strip into 4 squares. Each puff pastry sheet will result in 9 large squares or 16 smaller ones.

If using parsley, mix it into the feta cheese. Place a heaping tablespoon of feta cheese into the center of each square, packing it together (use a bit less for mini boreks). Fold the squares into either triangles or rectangles depending on your preference. Press the edges together with your fingers and then the tines of a fork to seal them well (they should seal easily, but if they do not, feel free to brush egg wash along the edge before pressing the dough together).

Place the boreks on the parchment-lined baking sheets and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, switching the pans from top to bottom halfway through, until the tops are golden brown. Allow the boreks to cool slightly and serve either warm or at room temperature. The boreks are freshest served the day they are baked, but if necessary store leftovers in a sealed container at room temperature.

*If using a more firm Greek feta, grate the cheese on a box grater instead of crumbling it (the Bulgarian feta is too soft to grate, it will simply fall apart).

**To make meat borek, replace the cheese with an equal amount of gheyma. If making both types at once, fold one into triangles and the other into rectangles to differentiate.


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