Okay, this is it. I’ve revised the glossary entry based on my new and improved understanding of boyos. This replaces my post of January 7, which you won’t find any more.
BOYO (BOY-ōō) is the Ladino word for bun – spelled bollo in modern Spanish. In Sephardic cookery it is a generic term applied to a broad range of savory & sweet baked goods, be they doughy, crunchy, chewy, flaky and so forth. Some examples include boyos de vino (biscocho cookies made with wine); boyos de rayo (flaky cheese biscuits) and just plain boyos, which are savory pastries filled with spinach, or cheese, or spinach & cheese (yes, there are more kinds of boyos).
Boyiko is the diminutive of boyo. The literal translation is ‘small boyo’, but it can just as easily imply ‘without filling.’ Either way it signifies an abbreviated form of boyo.
It’s the use of the word ‘bun’ that has intrigued me, since cookies (boyos de vino) and biscuits (boyos de rayo) are not buns, obviously. To understand why these, too, would fall under the bun category, I looked to the word itself and to technique for an explanation. And therein lay the answer.
All of these wildly different boyos share a specific technique when made according to tradition. After a pastry is first either folded and filled or rolled into a small ball, it is then mashed down lightly with the heel of the hand prior to baking, forming a small cavity or dent. It is the dent itself that turns out to be the origin of the pastry name, as the word ‘bollo’ has a second meaning: dent. In Spain today (if not elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world), this usage is more colloquial, having been replaced by the more lofty-sounding ‘abollatura’.
The dent serves a purpose. In the case of non-filled boyos or boyikos, it is a quick and effective means of making a reasonably flat cookie without a rolling pin, and in the case of filled boyos, pressing the dough seals the pastry shut. It’s that simple. You want to make boyos of any kind? Flatten them with your hand before you bake them. I’m retiring my rolling pin.
My thanks to Michael, Zoe and my Aunt Rady, whose recollections of hand-pressing the dough of three radically different pastries helped me get to the bottom of boyos! There’s much, much more to say on the subject, but I’ll leave that for another day.
You have no idea how much I love this work.