Tag Archives: savory pastry

What do you call a Sephardic butter pastry (besides divine)?

My grandmother was born in Turkey and used to make bourekas and montees, which were essentially the same but shaped differently. The bourekas were turnovers filled with potato and cheese or rice or meat and onions, or spinaca. The montees used the same dough (oil, water, flour), but were made like spiral spanakopita. I’ve never found any info on montees anywhere on the web, and everyone I could ask is gone. Have you heard of them and can you tell me the origin of the name?
Thanks very much
Len

Sure, Len!

First, let’s get you back on track with the spelling. “Montee” should be mantí, a pastry better known as mantikos.

Though your grandmother made her mantí from an oil dough, the name refers to its original star ingredient: butter. The word comes from manteca. In modern Spanish usage, “manteca” on its own brings to mind lard – emulsified pig fat – but the formal meaning indicates any emulsified fat derived from animals or plants. In the past, the specific fat was understood from context; under kosher law the consumption of fat from cow, sheep, and goat meats is forbidden, hence in a Sephardic kitchen, manteca would only mean butter. Continue reading

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Boyos / Bollos (glossary)

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.

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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.  Continue reading

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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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