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Ojaldres (glossary)

Ojaldre, the Ottoman-Sephardic savory pastry par excellence. © Janet Amateau.

Ojaldre, the Ottoman-Sephardic savory pastry par excellence. © Janet Amateau.

OJALDRES (“ōō- ZHÄL-dres”) – A specialty in the Ottoman-Sephardic tradition and particularly in Rhodes, these are small, triangular-shaped, savory pastries of a few layers of phyllo dough filled either with cheese and potato or ground beef and fresh herbs.   To make ojaldres is a labor of love and we generally reserve them for special occasions other than the major holidays, which have so many specific traditional foods associated with them. 

Hoja (oja in Ladino) and phyllo are the Spanish and Greek words, respectively, for leaf. As with the French mille feuilles (‘1,000 leaves,’ which in America is called a Napoleon), both describe  the distinctive characteristics of the pastry dough itself.

In modern Spanish, hojaldre (“ōHÄL-dre”) is the word for puff pastry. We tend to think of puff pastry as French, but the dough originated in Spain, where traditional bakeries make rustic puff pastries and cookies as they have for centuries. It’s also common to see the word applied to all variety of small sweet commericial cakes and cupcakes (think Hostess, Drake’s, Little Debbie).

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