Costa Rica is wonderful for many many things, but good bread is not one of them. And that is being generous. And I have friends who own bakeries here. Sorry, but the stuff here is mostly tasteless cardboard. I needed to learn how to make my own, or face a life of only tortillas and crackers. Today, a friend reminded me I hadn’t posted anything for a while, so since I already had dough going for bread, here we are.
I did figure out a simple adaptable dough that works well in this climate. Today, I will share it with you, with one nice variation, in honor of a friend who just returned from Israel – BOUREKAS. Bourekas are a middle eastern version of empanadas. Empanadas are available everywhere here and come with all kinds of fillings – potato, bean, cheese, chicken, pork, but they are ALWAYS deep fried, usually in some kind of palm oil mix. I eat them when really hungry if I’ve run out of my own food on the bus, as they are little self-contained sandwich units that don’t make a mess.
Dough – I reccomend the Nacarina brand here – it is the only one that has the consistent quality for bread. Sometimes I will mix in some oats or whole wheat. Today was just white. To about 3 cups of flour, I added 2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and the proofed yeast.
Proofing yeast here is critical – so many things can go awry. Put 1 tsp yeast in about 1/2 cup warm (NOT hot!) water with a teaspoon of sugar, stir gently and wait 5 minutes. If your yeast is good, it will bubble up on top and smell, well, yeasty. If it doesn’t do that, you need a new package of yeast. I store mine in the freezer in an airtight package.
Add your yeast water to your flour, and stir well, it should still be dry, and will need a little more water. Add water 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until you get your right consistency – this takes time to learn – it is soft, smooth, not too dry, not too sticky, but elastic – stretchy. Knead by flipping and squishing, for a couple of minutes. Put it in a greased bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Put in a warm place.
I use the the hood of my car for this – it is the perfect warmth, and the bread rises to double in bulk in about 45 minutes. This is where the art comes in – it could be longer, or shorter, depending on your conditions. I like to give my bread a shorter, second rising, before the shape and bake – the texture comes out better.
While your dough is rising, make your boureka filling. I went out to the greenhouse and cut some pak choi, bok choy, spinach, parsley and scallions. It looks like a lot, but as you will see, it cooks down to very little.
In a frying pan, fry a small chopped onion, a little finely chopped garlic, and add your greens from hard to soft. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (nuez moscada here), some salt, and a couple of tablespoons of the local grated cheese.
At the filling stage, you can be completely creative. In India, its curried potatoes, but you could fill with just cheeses and have Italian calzones, or squash, cauliflower, well seasoned yuca, or almost anything that can be chopped and put into a pie.
Very important – strain the liquid out of the veggies – or your bourekas will open up while baking and be a mess. I press the juice out through a strainer. Its loaded with nutrients, so reserve and drink the liquid too.
Here’s where I start my oven to preheat. (350 degrees F, or 180 C)
Take a ball of your dough, roll it out to a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Note that my circles are not perfect. Place about a heaping tablespoon of the filling on one side of your circle, leaving space around the edges for sealing.
With fingers dipped in water, wet a circle around the edge. Fold the top over your boureka and pinch the edges together. Put on your greased baking sheet, leaving a little space around them, and let them rise for another 15 minutes.
Bake them until the bottoms start to brown, about 15 minutes. If you want to get fancy and have that glazed top, in the last couple of minutes brush the tops with beaten egg yolk. (As you can see, I didn’t.)
When they come out, loosen from the baking sheet right away, and let cool, or just eat them.
Sometimes I smother them with tomato sauce, or chimichurri (fresh salsa) Disfrute!