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.