Monday, April 28, 2008

" Zelnik" - Potato and leek phyllo dough pastry

I have made this pastry almost 3 months ago, but I didn't get the chance to post it earlier, so I am posting it now.
The prehistory of this pastry is unfamiliar to me- who "invented" it, who "advertised" it so others can start baking it, I really don't know.
In my family though my Grandmother used to bake it for New year's Eve. She said it is called " zelnik" in Bulgarian, which literally means "made from cabbage", but there is no cabbage in the recipe. For a long time I've tried to find out why is it called that way.
In different places in Bulgaria this is prepared differently. Some say they call it "zelnik" because they prepare it with spinach and leek and they are green in color ("zelen" in Bulgarian is the color green, so the word is closer to "zelnik").
I cannot say that mine recipe is " the right way" to prepare "Zelnik", but this is the way it has stayed in the family for generations and we love to eat it, no matter how is called.

You can use store bought phyllo dough (you can find it in the freezer section even in Walmart, the most popular is Athens Food). If you do that skip the phyllo dough preparation explanation.

If you want homemade phyllo dough- the preparation is basically as the Turkish borek one. You can see it step-by-step here.

This time I used store bought phyllo dough.

For the filling-
1/2 lbs mashed potatoes
2 ans 1/2 cups cleaned and cut leek
2 eggs
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup grated mixed cheese

For the topping-
2 eggs
4 tbsp yogurt
4 tbsp water
1/8 tsp baking soda

Boil the potatoes, peel and mash them.Let them cool for at least 20 min.

Add the paprika, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and eggs!

In a pan sautee the Leeks with a tbsp of vegetable oil until they change their color to bright green. . Remember, this will take no more than 3 min! The leeks are very delicate, you don't want them to "melt".

In a big bowl combine the potatoes and leeks. Open the phyllo dough and place a couple of sheet on the bottom of a greased pan.

Now you can preheat the oven at 350F.
Spread couple of spoons of the potato-leek mixture over the phyllo dough and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Roll 3-4 sheets of phyllo dough together ( as shown in the picture). You can add as much sheets as you like, I like to roll 3 at first and then "close" it with 2 more on top of the opening of the roll.

Over the sheets in the greased baking pan place the rolls in a spiral as show in the picture, until you have finished all the sheets and potato-leek mixture.

If you have some cheese left, add it to the topping and spread evenly over the pastry.

Bake at 350 F for 40 min or until golden brown on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sweet Easter Breads- the recipe

Now, this recipe is NOT mine, but a nice lady from a Bulgarian forum( Scarlet, THANK YOU!). You can see the original recipe in Bulgarian here.

For the dough
7 and 1/2 cups( to 8 cups, depends how big are the eggs) sifted flour
1/8 tsp salt

6 large eggs
1 and 2/3 cup white sugar

4 tsp dry yeast
1 and 1/4 cup room temperature milk
1 tsp sugar

2/3 cup melted butter
2/3 cup vegetable oil

First preheat the oven at 350F( I use it to warm up the room at first).
Mix on high speed the eggs and sugar until creamy.
Sift the flour and add the salt.
In a bowl combine the milk, yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Stir until the yeast dissolves completely, then cover with plastic wrap, cover with blanket or something similar, so it can stay warm and wait 15 min to rise.

If using bread machine, place first the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients on top. Add the flour spoon by spoon, and start the Dough program on your machine. Use the cycle 2 times in a row, as you gradually add the oil and butter.

If kneading by hand, place the dry ingredients in the container where your are going to knead, then on top of them add the wet ingredients. Knead at least 40 minutes. The longer, the better! Gradually add the butter and oil while kneading. When the dough is ready, leave it in warm place ( today it was 95F at my kitchen) to rise.

After the dough is ready, shape it in a desired form, place in a greased pan, brush with egg white on top, sprinkle some sugar and/or some nuts and bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, depending on the shape you chose and the size of the pan you are using.
You can see the breads I did make for the past 3 years here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Easter, my Easter bread story

I am just sitting down for the first time today to enjoy a cup of mint and chamomile tea ( thanks honey!).
Yeah, you guessed right! Sunday is the orthodox Easter, and today I've baked for 8 hours ( yes, you've read correctly!)!!!
The first time I've baked kozunaci ( Bulgarian sweet Easter breads) I was 5 months pregnant with a HUGE BELLY, and when I say huge belly I don't mean the " I-ate-one-too-many-cherries" type of bellies. No, I mean " I-can't-see-my-feet" one.
Thanks to one wonderful woman, that had posted her recipe 3 years ago(you can see the original recipe here), my family has been able to have real Easters abroad ever since!
These are my very first Easter breads ever:



I was so worried that this was beginner's luck, that I had trouble convincing myself to bake it again :-)
Well, next year( 2007) repeated the success with this:


We liked them so much, that I started baking Easter breads on other occasions as well:


But now, I want to show you the ones I've done this year:

I even decided to bake some for my son's school, and since I love the way they look as a whole pastry, not cut, I decided to bake them for the kids in muffin pans, so each one of them can have a smaller version of the big bread :-)
I hope they like them:

From the same dough I made some crescents with jam and poppy seed:

Overall, I made 6 medium breads, 16 crescents with jam and 22 mini breads:

And now that you are all anxious to try them, I will post the recipe in the next post :-)
Happy Easter!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Palm Sunday Kitchen Accidents ( Whole Wheat and Ryе dinner rolls)

This is a recipe "by accident" but it turned out to be really good and I am definitely keeping it! :-)
I was talking over the phone with a friend of mine, while I was trying to mix together the dinner rolls dough, talking to my husband, who was looking for something and shouting at my little one to close the door (I need the kitchen to be hot for the yeast dough) at the same time, so I accidentally put rye flour instead of only wheat. I have to tell you I was a little worried when I saw the dough in the bread machine, but when I touched it, it was just as it has to be. I recommend shaping it with flour instead of vegetable oil or butter, but don't put too much, only not to stick to your hands.
Since it was my son's name day today we had a couple of friends coming over today so the " accident" rolls didn't actually make it to dinner, but everybody liked them and this is all it matters. Let's not forget that they are the healthier choice compared to regular white bread as well.
1 and 3/4 cup water (slightly warm)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
5 tbsp olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups white flour
1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
2 tsp dry yeast

Mix first the liquid then add the dry ingredients, if you are using a bread machine add the yeast last.
Knead the dough until it has a nice round and smooth shape, leave it to rise once in a warm place, cover with greased plastic foil if you are not using bread machine.
When the dough has doubled it's size shape 20 ( or 25, depends on the size) rolls with flour, then cut the top with scissors. Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet and bake at 370F for 20 min or until golden on color.
Serve hot, I served with fresh butter, soft feta cheese and dill.
Recipe here in Bulgarian ( на български)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Palm Sunday Kitchen Miracles ( Easter bread croissants with jam)

Yesterday I had the intention to tell you all about the Bulgarian Palm Sunday- the unbelievable scent of flowers everywhere you go, the cheerful colors of Spring that you can see everywhere, the new smiles on the people's faces, the awakening of the human spirit after the long winter if you like . I love this holiday! It is amazing what a little sun, couple of flowers and good friends can do. I miss it a lot, because here is a little bit different. There are no parades of people marching on the streets with bouquets and candles, there is no waiting in long lines in front of the church to get a willow branch from the priest, where you don't actually mind the waiting, as long as it is sunny, because you get to meet friends that you haven't met in a long time. Cheerful conversations, laughter, life....
But this day is not only Palm Sunday in Bulgaria, it is the day that every person with a name of a flower or tree is celebrating the so called "name day". The tradition is, that everyone can visit you without calling first, and that you have to be prepared for uninvited guests :-).
This is a really nice tradition I can talk about for hours, but this is not the thing I want to talk about now. No, I totally changed my mind, because I've discovered the 2 miracles of this Palm Sunday and that is what I am going to talk about- sweet Easter bread croissants and Whole Wheat and Ryе dinner rolls.

I decided to make sweet Easter bread croissants for this Palm Sunday, because it is really close to Easter for us and I had this recipe that a really nice and talented lady shared in one of the Bulgarian forums I visit, that I had in mind to test a long time ago. Many people made this recipe and although I believed them the croissants are unbelievable, people's words don't do them justice! The fluffy croissant just melts in the mouth, but when combined with the jam and nuts, the creamy taste that results from this combination just makes me want to make more. And I will tomorrow, I am not kidding! I made 50 today, and I am going to make as much tomorrow as well!
On behalf of my family I thank you, Djemma, thank you very much for sharing this little gem of a recipe! ( here is the original recipe in Bulgarian )

For the dough
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar ( 60 gram)
3.5 oz (100 ml ) milk
2 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
2.5 cups flour( 350 gram)
Makes 24 croissants ( I made 2 batches for the pictures)

You can add raisins, vanilla and lemon zest(this time because I didn't have fresh lemons I used liquid lemon flavor).
I knead the dough in the bread machine, but it can be done by hand as easily.
After it has risen once, roll out the dough into rectangles 1/6 inch thick on a lightly buttered surface , cut into triangles, fill with a filling of your choice (I used apricot and cherry jam with crushed walnuts) then shape into crescents. Put them on a baking sheet and allow to rise for 15 minutes.
Brush each croissant with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar ( sesame seeds, poppy seeds etc) and bake on 350-375 F for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

And if you want to know why they dissapeared so quickly, look at the little hand on the picture ;-)

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