Last week we received our pizza oven. Unfortunately the month of May has been so miserable and unpredictable. We were “very lucky” to get the oven just then and me being me, impatient and excited, I couldn't wait to try the new gadget.
Every other day I made dough in the hope that we could give it a go and bake it in our new oven.
Yes, but no!
So for the last two weeks I ended up baking all sorts of things, except pizza!! Using the pizza dough I regularly prepared...
One of my last pizza doughs I decided to make into something that is inspired from my home country - Bulgaria.
Every bulgarian that has been brought up in Bulgaria and has at least one bulgarian parent, has grown up with this delicious bake. Usually made for breakfast, it can be a snack, lunch or dinner.
It is easy to make and quick too if ready- made filo pastry is used, but if you decide to make it by hand it does take some time and skill. Especially if sourdough is used. As we all know, sourdough takes time and teaches us patience.
I must admit that this is the first time I am making this bake on my own.
My great grandmother was a master in all pastry bakes.
She made everything by hand, she never had a hand held mixer even.
The women in the village used to go to her to teach them her skill.
She did try to teach us too, especially my mum and my aunty.
But to be honest, none of us learned to bake the way she did.
I think the reason is that she used to make everything by eye.
I don't remember her measuring anything to the gram.
But I remember her pouring the flour straight from the package, the water straight from a cup, the butter - just a chunk cut with a knife.
Maybe she used cups to measure things, but for me, baking is Precision and I very rarely do it by eye.
Of course, our grandmothers had so much more experience, but how do you teach someone that has no clue that way… So we never got the hang of it and maybe only understood the techniques but not the actual recipe and process.
I was about 20 something when she passed away, she was 99.
She used to bake till she was probably 90.
She baked for all 4 families, for over 15 people. For Easter - making the Easter bread, for Christmas - the filo pastry with pumpkin and cinnamon (Tikvenik), for New years eve - Baklava, for birthdays she always used to make this Banitsa, but about 3 different ones - some with leeks and feta, some just with eggs and feta and a sweet one - with apples and walnuts.
Everything done by hand.
The pastry sheets were so thin and delicate you can look through them and see miles away, almost as thin as newspaper.
We used to sit and admire her skill, her hands almost flying when working, with such confidence, ease...just magical.
I have so many memories with her and her cooking.
She used to use the best ingredients possible, simple cooking with no more than 5 main components. But Oh my world. “Pinch of this pinch of that - this is how you do it” she used to say.
So when I decided to make Banitsa, I was a bit worried how this thing would turn out.
I was more reluctant to try to make Tutmanik - which is another Bulgarian bake, made with thicker sheets and not so technical.
I made the pizza dough, as usual, proofed overnight in the fridge, shaped after that and finished the proofing process at room temperature.
When the time came to start stretching it and making the sheets it felt like I had done it before, like she was there with me, guiding me.
It was such an amazing experience. Like all those hours of me watching her do it came back to me. So so special.
I know what I could've done a bit better but definitely next time I will pay attention to those details.
I should've stretched the corners more, so they are the same thickness as the rest of the sheet. Could've been a little more gentle too.
But for the first try ever, I am super pleased with the result, with the taste and the looks too.
This is a video of my first attempt for banitsa with pizza sourdough.
I know I could have done another one, perfect one, but at the end of the day, this is my referral to this day when I did it for the first time. The moment I was thinking of my lovely great grandma, her skills, knowledge and those working hands, the smile she used to greet me with when I turned up at her doorstep.
I will be talking a lot about my parents and grandparents in those blog posts, because this is me, how I have been brought up and the reason I became the person I am today.
At home 90% of the conversations are about food. Always have been. The rest are some arguments, love and general chit chat. Like Italian family, I suppose.
Anyway, regarding my bake from this post - I know it is not perfect, but if you are trying it for the first time too, it will probably look like mine.
Enjoy the process and learn from it. That's what I always say.
The recipe for the dough:
- 500g flour
- 350g water
- 100g starter
- 10g salt
Good splash of best quality olive oil you could find
The steps are:
- Autolyse- 30 minutes
- Slap and Fold and then one set Coil Fold
- The dough goes in the fridge for retardation
- In the morning the dough has one hour rest, then preshape and shape
- Proof till double in size - about 2 hours at 21 degrees room temperature
For shaping and stretching the sheets, refer to the video.
For the filling:
- 250g Feta
- 2-3 eggs
And a lot of oil. As much as is needed.
I don’t have a lot of photos of this bake as I wasn't sure how it would turn out and after I took it out of the oven I was so excited that I forgot about photographing it.
We eat banitsa with yogurt in a side dish or ayrian. Ayrian is a cold drink made with natural yogurt and water, sometimes a pinch of salt is added.
It is amazing in the hot summer months as it is very refreshing.
But I don't know anyone who is not Bulgarian or Turkish that likes to drink it…
I challenge you to give it a go and please let me know what you think (I mean the drink:))
Have a fab day!