More on Boyos: a revised conclusion / Mas Sobre Boyos

Your participation is not only encouraging but proving to be very, very helpful; it is our collective personal experience that leads me toward what I believe are the right conclusions for so many unanswered questions about Sephardic food. 

Recently, for example, I’ve been wondering why there are so many variations of boyos that, apart from the name ‘boyo’,  seem to bear no resemblance whatsoever to one another.   Why on Earth would cookies and biscuits  be categorized as buns (which is what ‘boyo’ means)?   I did draw one conclusion, based on how recipes evolve, which I included in the glossary (read that post here).  But that conclusion, for all its logic, didn’t quite satisfy me.  Thanks to your participation, I now know why:  The common denominator is one of technique.  All indications from my own family’s recipies, from my Sephardic cookbooks and from your comments, are that in making any kind of traditional boyo – whether dough only or filled, savory or sweet – the individual pastry is formed in part by flattening it with the heel of your hand.  My great grandmother used this technique to make yeast dough boyos filled with spinach and kashkaval; Michael at herbivoracious.com does the same with his boyikos; and a woman seeking a recipe for boyos de vino described the same process, even though boyos de vino are sweet cookies made from biscocho dough.  The only exception may prove to be boyos de fila – boyos made with phyllo dough – because the dough is so fragile (My own use of a rolling pin to make boyos de rayo is also a relatively modern adaptation).  But I may stand corrected depending on what else I learn.

Interestingly, everyone who’s written me so far about boyos (or boyikos – “little boyos”) of any kind seems to identify only one pastry as a boyo – as if within families there is/was room for only one kind of boyo.  This is the case in my family, also – unless someone’s been holding out on me…

Do these hold true in your experience, too?

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “More on Boyos: a revised conclusion / Mas Sobre Boyos

  1. Estelle

    Janet, what you say is absolutely correct. It is as though within families there was room for only one rendition of a recipe. I came to realize that there were other renditions as I grew up and was exposed to more Sephardic people who came from the same place my parents did and yet did things differently with a particular recipe. I love what I am learning on this site.
    Estelle

  2. Robert

    Hello,
    Seems there may be more items that are referred to as Boyo’s but I come from a sephartic family that came from Rhodes and Boyos were very popular and always made from a dough with a filling of spinach, cheese, potato or pumpkin. Romano cheese was used with the first 3 fillings. These fillings are put inside the dough which is folded around the filling and hen the tops sprinkled with ramano cheese. I have never heard of a boyo made out of any the other doughs you refer to. Probably the names of whatever those pastries were had been lost in translation or simplified to make them easer to pronounce.

    • Janet Amateau

      Robert – my family also comes from Rhodes and we, too, made boyos precisely as you describe them. I also believed, like you, that nothing else could constitute a boyo, but readers’ comments, research and recollections and practice within my own Rhodesli family proved otherwise! For example, my Rhodesli great grandmother made the shape & fillings you describe, first making a phyllo-type dough that contains yeast. But somewhere along the way her daughter (my 95-year-old great aunt) dispensed with the yeast. What she makes are boyos de fila (phyllo dough boyos). My recipe for boyos de rayu (rayu is Ladino for rallado – ‘grated’ Spanish) comes from Rhodes. Boyos de vino are also part of Sephardic tradition – from Rhodes and elsewhere – and perfectly ‘legitimate’ although maybe not within your family. But none of them is wrong! The key lies within the word ‘boyo’ itself. Take a look at the glossary entry for boyos (which, for some reason I can’t link to here right now) and you’ll get the whole picture. — JA

  3. Betty Resnick

    Such an interesting boyo discussion! The only boyos I know are the ones my grandmother, from Turkey, made. They were made with phyllo dough and were filled with either spinach and cheese (these were the pinwheel shape) or with mashed potatoes and cheese (these were square). They were so incredibly delicious. I haven’t attempted to make them, but now maybe I will!

    • Janet Amateau

      Hi, Betty. By all means, make boyos! I just took a look at your comments and wanted to reiterate something about Sephardic pastry names, specifically how they differ to indicate differences in presentation (form). In this particular instance (i.e. with these ingredients), square and folded = boyos; rolled and coiled = bulemas, a pastry I have yet to write about, but now is a good moment to begin. If you look back again through my posts and some of the comments about boyos, you’ll see reference to the technqiue of lightly mashing the dough either as a means of sealing a filled pastry (the square shape) or flattening a little ball of dough to leave a dent in it. Again, the word ‘boyo’ – ‘bollo’ in modern Spanish – means both ‘dent’ and ‘bun’, which I guess I need not explain any further (I’m pedantic enough already!). Bulemas are made from the same dough (a fine, pliable yeast dough) and fillings (cheese with either spinach, potato or pumpkin), but they are distinguished from boyos by their shape and thus warrant a different name. It’s like an eclair vs. a cream puff. — JA

  4. Coco

    My family is from Rhodes and a boyo to me has always been a pastry made from flour, vegetable oil, romano cheese filled with either a spinach/feta/romano or a potato/cheese filling. They are rolled into sort of a big fat cigar and finished with a light egg wash and more romano. I just baked some spinach boyos last night and they are DELICIOUS!

    • Janet Amateau

      Those are Rhodesli boyos, all right, but it’s the folding and light mashing of the dough that gives them their name… I’ll say it a thousand times ;). FYI, the link you provided didn’t access the page to your photos. If you’ve moved them and/or want to try again, I will too. — JA

  5. Shawn K.

    Great comments, but no new ones for a while.
    Family ties to Rhodes as well as Turkey and also have extended family with similar ties that have broadened my understanding and techniques in preparing Boyos, Borecas, whatever you want to call them.
    As with others I’ve seen many of the variations mentioned here. I’ve also encountered the simple dough of flour, oil, water and salt with potato & cheese filling, spinach & cheese and I’ve also been introduced to a ground meat and onion filling. While all of these are fantastic I think my favorite is a version from my mother-in-law which uses filo but you make the filo from scratch. The dough is simple enough (flour, water, salt) but the preparation takes time. After the stiff dough is made it is rolled out and margarine is spread over the top and then folded on itself numerous times, cooled in the fridge and then rolled out and folded on itself again. The result is a light flaky multi-layered puff pastry that can be used for “pop-over” type pastry with basically the same types of fillings or rolled out to large top and bottom layers that go in a baking sheet, filling placed in between and then scored to squares prior to baking.
    When I make these I usually make them for large groups so I’m making 5-10 dozed individual pieces at a time. In fact I’m making some this weekend… My wife can hardly contain herself.

    For me it’s all about the connection that this type of “traditional” food can make, bringing new and future generations together with mine and generations before us. Plus they taste fantastic with hard boiled eggs (if you haven’t tried it, boil the eggs for at least 30 minutes.)

    • Janet Amateau

      Hi, Shawn –

      The process you’re describing is for making puff pastry – what the Spanish call hojaldre (leaf pastry), as opposed to Ladino ojaldre, which is what we call pastries made from phylo or filo dough. These names are a little circular: phylo is Greek for ‘leaf’, filo/hilo means ‘thread’ in Spanish, etc. Either way, the implication is a dough that’s very, very thin. Your dough is the one that’s used to make croissants, among other baked goods, and it’s a *very* old technique – although that can be said for pretty much everything described on this blog 😉

      If there’s a little bit of crossover regarding dough, however, there’s none when it comes to boyos and borekas, which are not the same thing. Borekas, like Spanish empanadas, are always made from a yeast-free dough that’s thicker, closer to pie crust, and always shaped in a half circle with crimped edges. Boyos, however, can vary a bit. They’re made of one of the leafier pastries, either the one you describe, or hand-pulled filo, with or without yeast. And yes, they are great with hard boiled eggs! Thanks for bringing up this great technique.

    • Janet Amateau

      Oops – I meant to say that Spanish empanadas are made from this type of dough, not that they’re always semi-circular.

  6. Richelle Kalman

    Thank you for this information. Growing up there has been only one kind of boyico in my family. Last year I tried searching the internet and had no luck. My cousin just told me about boyos which got me to search again.
    My family uses a recipe that combines water, evoo, salt, baking powder, flour and Romano cheese for the dough. We roll it out, sprinkle the inside with a parm/Romano mixture and roll it up. The pieces are sliced, placed on cookie sheet, flattened with your palm and sprinkled with more cheese mix. They are delicious – but now I’m interested in trying new recipes.

    • Janet

      Richelle, that sounds delicious. For a variation, right off the bat you can alter the flavor and texture of your dough by using yeast instead of baking powder, and grated kashkaval instead of parmigiano and romano. My own family’s version of “the” boyo calls for a mix of spinach & kashkaval, and the square envelope fold . I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted the recipe. I will. 🙂

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