Like all ethnic families, our Armenian family gatherings centered around food. Stops were pulled, and a feast was enjoyed by all – generally twice in the same day.
A favorite amongst the children was Cheese Beurek (pronounced ‘burr-egg’). They’re similar to the Cornish pasty and Italian calzone. Admittedly, these tasty delights are a bit of work – they’re not difficult, just time consuming.
Now here is the issue of utmost importance with Cheese Beurek: to ooze or not to ooze. Unless you’re very careful, some of the cheese filling oozes out midway through the baking process, forming a crispy cheese appendage. (See photo below.)
To be honest, I quite like this cheesey bonus disc, and there’s still plenty of cheese inside. But they don’t look very nice and, of course, when they’re completely enclosed, there are no greasy fingers.
I embarked on a mission to discover why the bursting forth of cheese so I would know how to counteract this situation if I wanted to serve Cheese Beurek for company. Oddly enough, the leakage comes from the folded side, not where the edges meet, like you might expect. This is probably because I crimp the heck out of the dough.
So I made countless Cheese Beurek, experimenting with different methods including slitting the top, using less filling, keeping the filling away from the center of the fold, and brushing the dough with egg before placing the filling. What finally worked was using a piece of floured waxed paper to assist in folding the dough, rather than my hands. I guess I was stretching the dough with my palm even though I tried to be careful. The paper keeps the dough stable.
So there you have it!
One thing I should mention is that sometimes beurek is made using a filo or puff pastry dough, rather than bread dough. It’s just a matter of preference.
NOTE: This recipe involves a rising dough, so allow time for it.
CHEESE BEUREK – makes 12 beurek
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 1¼ cups water, 100º – 104º Fahrenheit
- 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, approximately
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup shortening (I use Crisco)
- ½ lb Muenster cheese, shredded
- 1 egg, beaten and divided
- ½ tsp black ground pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic salt
- ½ tsp salt
Stir yeast into the water and let proof (foam) for about 5 minutes. Put 2½ cups of flour into the work bowl of your food processor. Add in sugar, salt, and shortening. Turn on the machine and slowly pour in the yeast water. Turn off machine and sprinkle in a few more tablespoons of flour. Turn on machine. The goal is for the dough to form a ball. Keep adding in flour a little at a time until the ball forms – you may not need all the flour. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to mix in a bowl and knead by hand. (Start saving your pennies, you really should have one!)
Pour the dough onto a floured bread board. Pick up the ball from the flour-y bottom and fold the dough onto itself, so now floured dough surrounds it and the sticky dough is encased. (I HATE touching sticky dough with my hands.) Gently toss the ball to dislodge excess flour. Plop the dough into a greased bowl, press down, then flip the dough. Now the ball is greased on both sides and your hands should still be clean. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour.
Prepare the filling while the dough is rising. Into a mixing bowl blend the cheese, half of the egg, the pepper, garlic salt, and salt. Into a smaller bowl make an egg wash by beating the other half of the egg and 1 tablespoon water.
When the dough has risen, pour it onto a well floured board and cut into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand. Let the dough rest about 10 minutes so it’s easier to roll out.
One by one (unless you’re doing an assembly line with helpers) roll out a dough circle to be about 5½” in diameter. Place this on a lightly floured square of waxed paper. Spread about 2½ tablespoons of the filling on one half of the dough, leaving a 3/8″ border from the edge. Dip your finger in water and run it around the entire border to moisten dough. Put your palm under the waxed paper and fold the dough in half. (See picture below.)
UPDATE: I’ve just discovered an even better method to prevent leakage: form 12 oblong cheese balls from the filling, place on waxed paper, and freeze. Place frozen balls on dough circles, wet edges with water, and fold dough over cheese ball, being careful not to poke the frozen cheese through the dough.
Press edges together, then crimp well with a fork.
Place on a greased or non-stick cookie sheet – don’t crowd. One standard sheet will hold 6. With a dry pastry brush, whisk away excess flour.
Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit. Do this after beureks are assembled to give them a bit of a rest as the oven is heating.
When the oven is heated, brush the tops of the Cheese Beurek with egg wash. Bake for 12 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve hot.