I have vivid memories of making dhaktyla and bourekia with my grandmother. There would be a production line of rolling, stuffing, squishing, frying, dipping and eating. My capacity for eating these delicious sweet treats was limitless despite not really having a sweet tooth.
Making these pastries was one of the highlights of growing up and whenever we saw my grandparents we put on a lot of pressure to make them. Every kitchen surface would be covered in flour and icing sugar and dripping with syrup and we wouldn’t come done from the sugar high for hours (much to the horror of my parents I am sure). As we got older, the pastry making sessions dissipated. A shop called Wiltons in Cyprus opened and it became easier to buy than to make the delicacies by hand. But for years now I have been gathering courage to make these delicious things.
We decided on bourekia as the ingredients proved easier to get hold of. The dhaktyla require orange blossom water for the syrup which we couldn’t find (you can make them without, but who wants half measures).
They were easier than I thought, but definitely time-consuming. It was a day of food making and we had a lot of fun, and made a lot of mistakes. My grandmother’s recipe book has a few suggestions missing that are probably common knowledge to the seasoned pastry maker. But we learnt from our mishaps and ultimately they tasted great and the sugar coma was worth the effort.
- 3 cups of flour
- 3 Tbs oil (we used sunflower)
- ¾ of a cup
- Anari / ricotta / cream cheese
Oil for deep frying and icing sugar to dust
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the oil. Rub the oil into the flour with your fingertips. Add the water slowly until you have a smooth firm dough. Knead well. I kneaded them so well I had sore arms for weeks afterwards. Form into 4 balls and leave them to rest covered for an hour or two, or even overnight. We made the pastry in the morning and then went for a beach walk and a rock pool scramble. The sea anemones and indigenous foliage were amazing.
When we got back (a little battered after slipping on a rock), we made the filling. I have yet to find anari in South Africa and there was no ricotta to be found when I went for the preparatory shop, so I had to settle for cream cheese. I would definitely use ricotta as opposed to cream cheese as the cream cheese becomes to runny and leaks from the bourekia easily.
Mush the cheese with cinnamon and sugar. I cannot give accurate measurements for these as we really did make the filling to taste, adding bits of cinnamon and sugar until it tasted right. I know this is very vague, but we did not record the amounts accurately. Next time…
Using a pasta machine, we rolled out the dough into strips. Taking a glass, and then a tin of butter beans, we cut rounds into the pastry. The recipe suggests they should be 3 inches in diameter, but I would go for something slightly larger than a tin next time.
Place a teaspoonful of filling in the centre of the rounds and fold over. Lightly wet the circumference with some water. We had a glass of water and dipped our fingers in to wet the edges. Press them together in half moons with a fork. The water will make the pastry stick together. Place on a floured surface.
Being pastry, we of course had to make a pi parcel. Use all the dough, even if the last one is slightly misshapen.
Heat the oil in a pot until it is sizzling. I have always been a bit terrified of deep frying imagining boiling oil falling off the stove and burning holes into my flesh. Deep fry the bourekia until lightly golden and then drain the oil.
Dust with icing sugar and eat as quickly as possible.