Bosnia and Herzegovina: Pita/Burek

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This week’s baked good comes from Bosnia and Herzegovina!

I’ll be honest here, I thought the whole country was just “Bosnia.” I didn’t know Herzegovina was officially part of the title. For anyone else who maybe didn’t know that either, “Bosnia” seems to just be the general term for the place, but there is a territory in the southern part of the country known as Herzegovina. It is inhabited mainly by Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks, and I think kind of has it’s own sort of governmental administration?? But I could easily be wrong about that, since I was trying to read up on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government system and I got very confused. It seems very complicated, with multiple presidents and different regions and I sort of gave up trying to understand it. So TL;DR, if I’m correct, Herzegovina is a territory in the southern tail of the country, the northern part is Bosnia, but its all one country. Another fun fact, I didn’t know that people from Bosnia are called “Bosniaks,” and “Bosnian” I guess is just the name for the language??

One of my coworkers at the bakery I work at is from Bosnia, and every once in a while she’ll say a Bosnian expression, and just by proximity, I’ve picked up these three Bosnian words (I dont know the correct spelling though, so this is going to be how it phonetically sounds!): 1. Moya- this seems to be a suffix added to the end of someone’s name, as sort of a term of endearment meaning “my love”. For example, another coworker’s name is Teresa, and she’ll often say “Teresa moya!” haha. 2. “preecha”- apparently this word means something along the lines of “talking” or maybe like “babbling”? When employees are talking more than working, she’ll yell “preecha, preecha, too much preecha!”, or a variation, about someone who never stops talking- “preecha preecha, all day preecha!”. It’s kind of hilarious. and 3. I don’t even know how to type this one out…the closest I can get is “bojeh”, with an open “o” sound and the “j” being a soft sound, kind a French-like. This apparently is an expression meaning like “oh my goodness” or “oh geez…” I’ve heard her use this when she’s somewhat stressed out, she’ll say “Aah bojeh..” with a sigh.

So there. That’s my terrible, probably hugely incorrect Bosnian lesson! This coworker speaks perfect English, but her sister, who speaks very broken english, also worked there for a short time too, and I tried to look up some Bosnian phrases to speak to her to ease her working experience, but Bosnian pronunciation was extremely difficult for me and I could hardly wrap my mind around a simple greeting phrase, so that plan was quickly squashed! I learned one phrase and she had to correct my horrible attempt at it. haha.

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Ok wow, sorry that was a ramble and a half…I’ll talk about the thing we’re all actually here for. Food!!! As I am with a lot of Bosnian things, I was a bit confused about what this was actually called. Pita? Burek? My conclusion (correct me if I’m wrong) is that “Pita” is the general name for a swirly pastry like these, with some sort of filling, and “burek” is the name for the specifically meat-filled ones. I also made some potato filled ones, and the name from that recipe was “Pita sa krompirom.” I had extra filling so I made one big one with both potatoes and beef, so I have no idea what that would be called!

From my research, these things can either be made in small individual rolls, or in one big roll that you cut into slices. And some are made with pre-made filo dough, and some were made with a from-scratch dough that gets stretched out super thin (much like the method for making the Polish Povitica bread I did a while back). I decided to opt for pre-made filo dough, since I’d never worked with that before, and I wanted to try it! But then I had left-over filling, so the next day, I did make some dough and tried the homemade stretchy version.

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These things are quite tasty! I think I had something similar to these when I was in the airport in Istanbul for a layover once, but I don’t remember it being as crunchy. But then again, that was Turkey and not Bosnia! I enjoyed the spices and flavorings used. One of the recipes I found called for Vegeta, which is a spice mixture commonly used in this region of Europe. I found an alternative spice mix that I could make on my own that was supposed to be able to serve as a substitute, but I didn’t even have all the ingredients for that, so I kinda improvised! Along with salt and pepper, I also added garlic powder, tumeric and paprika, and I will list the amounts I used in the recipe below!

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This was my first time using filo dough, and it was fun, but kind of tricky! It tears easily since its so thin, and you have to make sure it doesn’t dry out (which happens very fast!) or else it will get brittle and break easier than a potato chip!  I got a box of filo dough from the grocery store in the freezer section, and it came with 18 sheets of dough. Each pita took two sheets of filo, so I made pastries. I think with the amount of filling I had (both potato and beef) I could have made about 20 pitas, had I had enough filo dough.

The second attempt at a burek to use up my filling, I made some dough and stretched it out to make a big one. I’m not sure what didn’t go quite right, but it really puffed up and became quite a bit taller than I think it should have…but oh well, it was delicious.

 

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the dough for the big one! gotta get it thinnnn!

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puffyyyy

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I tend to be learning more about these countries by looking up information about them rather than trying to make sense of current events that I have little context for, so here are some facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina that I didn’t know! (from here and here)
-The name “Bosnia” comes from an Indo-European word Bosana, which means water.
-The currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Marka. Currently, 1 BAM ~ $0.55 USD.
-Bosnia and Herzegovina is slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.
-Bosnia and Herzegovina has three official languages, Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. They are all very similar and can more or less be understood between each other and are more or less used to represent ethic identity.
-It has the last remaining jungle in Europe!
-There are still around 220,000 landmines buried around the country from the Bosnian War, and they are still a pretty real threat today. They’ve effected those living in rural areas, creating difficult living conditions.

Since all the recipes I found called for different doughs or fillings or ingredients, or made different amounts, I sort of combined 3 recipes to suit my size, space and ingredient requirements. The three recipes I used were:

this one (small pitas, filo dough with potato filling),
this one (one big pita, homemade dough with beef filling), for the big pita I made with left over filling, I followed this one’s recipe for the dough.
-and loose influences from this one (one big pita, homemade dough with beef and/or cheese filling). I’ll go ahead and type out the recipe I put together. For individual pitas, with both beef and potato filling.

Bosnian Pita: Beef and/or Potato fillings

Potato filling
-2-3 Potatoes (I used two large and one small), peels and finely diced.
-1/2 large onion, minced
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/4 tsp tumeric
-1/4 tsp garlic powder

Beef filling
-1 lb ground beef
-1/2 large onion, minced
-2 eggs
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/4 tsp tumeric
-1/4 tsp garlic powder
-1/4 tsp paprika (or to taste)

Other ingredients
-Filo dough
-olive oil or melted butter
-sesame seeds (optional)

Yeild: If you make both fillings, you’ll probably need about 40 sheets of filo dough to use up the fillings, and that will make about 20 individual pastries. If you only make one of the fillings, you’ll probably get about 10-15 pastries with these amounts. You need twice as many sheets of filo dough as the number of pastries you want.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Brush a large baking tray with a little of the oil, or cover in parchment.
  2. To make the fillings, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and cook the onion over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until softened. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. FOR POTATO FILLING: Peel the potatoes and dice them into small pieces. Add to the onion, season with the spices and set aside.
  4. FOR BEEF FILLING: Combine the cooked onions with the ground beef, eggs, and spices, and set aside.
  5. Stack filo sheets flat on a bench top. Cover with a dry clean tea towel and then a slightly damp tea towel to help prevent them from drying out.
  6. Take one sheet of filo, lay it with a long side closest to you and brush with a little of the oil or melted butter. Cover with another sheet of filo brush with oil again.
  7. Spread about ⅓ cup of the potato filling along the long edge closest to you, about and inch from the edge and about an inch from each end. Fold in the pastry ends and then roll up to form a log and to enclose the filling.
  8. Shape the filo log into a coil and place on the oven tray. Brush with a little more oil and then sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if desired. Repeat with the remaining filo sheets and filling.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is cooked through. Bosnian pro tip!: Serve warm topped with yogurt and pepper.

 

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