Editor’s note: When I first wrote this post in 2009, it was before I’d sorted out certain details about our food names, and I referred to the biscuits as boyos de rayo, rather than the diminutive boyikos de rayo, which is correct. The comments that followed, which are still posted here, reflected that omission, and it was quite a conversation! This post from November 2012 explains how the Ladino diminutive is used in our food names, so I won’t repeat it here. The recipe link was broken, too! It’s fixed now and re-posted, for those who missed it the first time around. 🙂
Everybody loves a good cheese biscuit with drinks, and this is ours. Boyos de rayo are crumbly, yeast-free, oil and cheese biscuits. They’re delicious on their own, but in a meze with preserved fish – lakerda or palamida, olives, maybe some potato ajada, and a chilled wine or raki (Turkish anisette), you could snack happily to satiety.
Boyos de rayo aren’t really buns at all [and should properly be called boyikos]. Rayo is from the Ladino rayar (rallar in modern Spanish), meaning “to grate”, which obviously refers to the substantial quantity of cheese in the dough. These are simple biscuits, with at most a sprinkling of sesame seeds added before baking. The traditional cheeses for this dough should come from the Balkans, Italy, or Greece: kashkaval, parmiggiano, pecorino, kefalotyri. (Parmiggiano is the mildest of the four).
We’re married to our traditions, not enslaved to them, so there’s no reason you can’t give yours a personal touch by blending in other herbs or spices, too. But if your aim is to be true to Ottoman Sephardic sensibility, don’t overdo it; keep it simple, invent in context. There are many flavors you can work with without straying too far from home.
14 responses to “Boyos de rayu (Boyikos)”
Ok, how weird is this. I’m making a variation of these tonight, and figured I’d peek on the web to see how other people do them – and you just posted them yesterday. I’m doing them according to my wife’s families tradition – they are from Turkey and Greece. They don’t roll them out flat and cut though, they roll into little balls and then press into circles and press with a fork to decorate. They also don’t add any herbs or seeds, though that sounds delicious. Is that traditional in your family or something special you’ve added? I’ll post our version on Herbivoracious.com in the next few days.
Michael – your wife’s method is obviously older than mine, and much faster, too, if you press the boyos directly onto the baking sheet. I roll out the dough on the back of a baking sheet strictly to maintain a uniform shape & thickness, which I like; there’s no other reason. I’ve come across recipes with both techniques; either way, the flavor & texture remain the same. Decorating the dough with fork tines is a nice, personal touch and it’s how my great grandmother used to seal the tops of her pastelicos (tiny, deep-dish meat pies). These, by the way, she also shaped individually by hand – but that was before the era of mini-muffin tins. You get the idea.
Adding sesame to the dough is one tradition; you can also brush the tops of the boyos with an egg wash and sprinkle sesame on top. Very Greek and, by extension, very much “a la muestra”, too.
As for the addition of other herbs & spices, the words “authentic” and “traditional” don’t always mean “only”. While rosemary grows all over the Med, it is associated mostly with Italian cooking and generally not found in traditional Rhodesli cooking, which employs a very narrow range of herbs and a very light hand with spice. My mother’s family came from Rhodes, and that tradition informs my approach. However, Rhodes and the Rhodesli Sephardim in particular have a very strong link historically with Italy, Italian flavors and cooking techniques (Italian Jewish cuisine, by the way, owes a lot to Sephardic tradition). We’ve used Italian cheeses – pecorino and parmiggiano – for as long as anyone can remember. We’re big on tomatoes, too. But even with this in mind, I’ll only add rosemary to boyos de rayu if it’s going to complement, not overpower, the other flavors I’m serving with them (or if I’m just making them as a stand-alone snack). If my grandparents had been from Istanbul I would have played with flavors more in keeping with the cuisine of Istanbul.
So. There’s no reason you can’t experiment and still maintain authenticity, if not absolute tradition. So long as you stick to the basic dough recipe and add only Mediterranean ingredients as additional flavoring, you’re still making an Ottoman-Sephardic cheese biscuit, albeit with your own personal touch. — Janet
Hey Janet – thanks so much for the detailed answer! I’m going to try your rolling method soon, I think it will let me produce prettier results without the 70 years of experience that Noni’s hands have 🙂
This is interesting. In my mother’s home I never had a Boyiko fashioned like this one. What my mother referred to as Boyikos were made with filo and filled with cheese. Hmmm this may be a regional variation.
Estelle, take a look at the glossary entry for boyos (also at today’s post – 1/26/2009).
Hi there I am excited to have found you! I actually linked your site to mine in one of my posts where I wanted a quick link to explain what biscocchos are in case anyone was interested. My dad’s family are sephardic jews from Ismir and her grew up in a Ladino-peaking home in Long Beach, NY. My grandma used to make boyos, burrekitas, biscocchos, roscas, fidellos, spinach pie – the whole nine yards! She would send to us in Boston in little shoe boxes because she was always sure we were all wasting away from my mom’s “terrible ashkenazi cooking” (haha). Thanks for being here!
Ariella Darsa Amshalem
ps we do have some Amateau relatives….
Thanks for writing, Ariella, and for the link. As for the Amateaus… we are all ALL related, so you are a cousin! — JA
I’m so glad I found this site — I was looking for the recipe for the boyekos my Nona used to make every year for my Nono’s meldado. They were yeast rolls and we loved to make Halvah sandwiches with them (butter and Halvah, what a great combination that was!) The boyos you describe were what my family would make with the left over dough from borekas. We would grate the kashkaval into the dough and on top and bake for a delicious treat!
I know some friends used to make bulemas with cheese and also spinach, with a yeast dough. Thanks for bringing back great memories.
My family were from Salonique and my husband’s from Ioannina — so we had many similar foods and many different foods — but great tastes!!
My granddaughter loves keftikas de prassa, which she takes up to college with her and my grandson loves the spinach borekas and has gotten to like the merenjena (eggplant) borekas.
They keep me busy and I love it!!
Keep up the good work — looking forward to more Sephardic recipes. Thanks.
Thank you, Rose. — JA
Hi Rose – My mother’s parents came from Iannina! The family name was Matza (sometimes changed and spelled Mazza) – wouldn’t it be amazing if your husband’s family knew or heard of my grandparents?
Would you possibly have the recipe for the bulemas (yeast dough filled with spinach/cheese mixture and shaped in rounds, with fork piercing on top? They were delicious and I’d love to try to make them for my family. Thanks.
Rose, this link will lead you (and everyone else) directly to a recipe for spinach bulemas at ‘the boreka diary‘, written by Linda Capeloto Sendowski. Her recipe looks great and has very clear photographs you can refer to. — JA
Love this recipe. Thank you
Once I had recipe for burrekitas, but I lost it.
Is some one can send me one please.