These Sephardic pastries are crispy, savory, cheesy heaven.
Bourekas, boyos and bulemas are flaky, savory pastries, and just might be the crowning jewel of the Sephardic kitchen. Potato or eggplant bourekas, cheese boyos or spinach and cheese bulemas are traditionally served as part of the Sabbath desayuno(Ladino for “breakfast,” and a tradition in communities of the former Ottoman empire). These trademark baked goods are usually accompanied by Kalamata olives, kashkaval cheese and huevos haminados, eggs that have been baked overnight with onion skins, oil and pepper to achieve a golden-brown color and a wonderfully smoky, caramelized flavor.
Bulemas are related to “bollos de pan,” a dishinvented in the Sephardic kitchen as a way to use up stale bread. (“Bollos” in Spanish means balls and “pan” means bread.) By soaking the bread in milk, flavoring it with spices and cheese, rolling the resulting dough into balls and then frying, the Sephardic Jews who settled in Istanbul and Izmir created a flavorful snack. Bolloswere so popular that soon cooks replaced stale bread with a dedicated flaky, crusty dough just for them. Along the way, the spelling changed to boyos. Boyos or boyikos de keso are a delicious cheese pastry that incorporates cheese in the dough.
Bulemas, which confusingly are sometimes also called boyos, are made with the same dough. The dough is rolled out flat, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, stuffed with a fresh spinach and feta cheese filling, rolled into a snail-like coil, brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with finely grated Romano cheese. The bulemas are quickly baked in a very hot oven and the result is crispy, flaky, cheesy heaven.
Making bulemas is a time-consuming endeavor but they are so worth the effort. They are a perfect food to serve as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres, snack or as a light meal with salad. Bulemas are one of those foods that store beautifully in the freezer and can be reheated and still taste absolutely perfect. So grab a baking partner, triple the recipe, and spend a morning kneading, rolling and stuffing dough to bake some delicious bulemas.