By Tori Avey, The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Bourekas are delicious Middle Eastern hand pies. These baked, stuffed pastries are popular in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Different versions of this turnover pastry exist all over the world—knishes, calzones, samosas, bridies, and strudel are all regional variations on the same concept. Bourekas originated in Asia as a deep-fried filled dumpling known as a burga. When the Turks of central Asia moved to what is now the country of Turkey, they brought their stuffed burga dumplings with them. Over time, the dumpling evolved into a variety of stuffed, layered pastries known as börek. Sephardic Jews who settled in Turkey adopted the pastry, merging it with their version of the same dish (empanada) and adapting it to make it kosher. Börek + empanada = boureka. The boureka was born!
Bourekas are made with a variety of savory fillings, including cheese, meat, spinach, and eggplant. They are generally made with either puff pastry or filo (phyllo) dough, and served as appetizers, alongside a meal, or as a portable snack. Of the many boureka varieties out there, cheese bourekas are my favorite. These Cheese Bourekas with Puff Pastry are super easy to make, especially if you use store-bought puff pastry. They also freeze well, which means you can make them ahead and pop them in the oven just before your meal. I keep a stash in the freezer for unexpected company; they’re such a treat with tea or coffee. I also like to serve them with homemade soup for a light and tasty winter meal.