boereg (cheese filled phyllo)
This is a universally favorite Armenian dish so many variations exist in the
particular choice of ingredients, but the overall result is pretty standard.
Having had it all her life made by other hands, Ani followed her mom Isgouhi's
instructions once she decided it was time for her to try it out herself. Got it
right on the first try and continued to practice successfully. It is really
straightforward. And becomes addictive. Melted cheese, the magic component of
the philly cheesesteak, married to paper thin buttery phyllo dough. Comfort
food, probably better not to analyze the nutritional profile.
How to pronounce this word? It sounds like "burak" (boo-rack)
to bob's untrained ear.
Muenster or feta cheese seems to be the common ingredient in its many variations
of mixed cheeses, some of which include cottage cheese. Adding spinach to the
cheese layer(s) is another option.
- 1/2 lb (lite) muenster cheese
- 1/2 lb (fat free) feta cheese
- 1/2 lb (lowfat) mozzarella cheese
- 1 t salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 T flour
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 stick butter (1/4 lb plus 1/16 lb), melted
- 1 lb phyllo pastry dough (about 18 12" x 17" sheets)
OR 1.1 lb package 2 frozen puff pastry sheets, rolled thinner to at
least 12"x12" [see update]
- optional 1 lb package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, moisture squeezed
[sautéed with chopped onion in 2 T of butter for an extra kick]
- 1 c (nonfat) milk
- Get the phyllo dough out of the freezer an hour before assembly time, but
do not open the package. Work with it quickly once you do open it since it
dries out quickly.
- Grate the three cheeses with a large hole grater and mix them together
with one hand and mix in the salt, pepper and flour and egg with a spoon.
- Meanwhile melt the butter and spray the roughly 11" x 17" baking pan with veggie
- Unfold the phyllo dough sheets and begin assembly. There are typically
about 18 sheets roughly 11" x 17" in a 1 lb package. Start with one sheet
on the bottom. Use a brush to roughly coat the sheet with butter minimally,
being careful to get the edges done well so they don't dry out during
baking. After this first layer, you are on your own.
- The simplest sheet layering configuration is just to put one layer
over the next (brushing with butter each time) until you stick the cheese layer in the middle
(9 plus 9), or half the
cheese mixture at the two points equidistant from the top and bottom (6 plus
6 plus 6), BUT somehow there was an alternating overlapping sheet tradition
that continued over to our first attempts at doing this recipe explained
below in a note.
- Once finished with the layering, take a thin sharp knife and cut in half
both ways and then in half again lengthwise, but divide each of the
widthwise halves into thirds, making a 6 x 4 pattern of almost 3"x3" cheese
- Dribble the cup of milk evenly into all the grooves between the squares
so that it will be absorbed by the internal structure of the pie.
- At this point it can be refrigerated overnight so that it can be baked
just before serving.
- When ready, bake 30 to 40 minutes at 350° until golden
- Remove and let cool about 10 minutes before
serving so nobody burns their mouth while ingesting.
- Leftovers are great for many days. Refrigerate. When ready to go for it
again, microwave 20 to 30
seconds on high (experiment here, depending on how many squares you heat up).
- Our initial fold over maneuvers were a bit absurd:
- For example, after the initial full bottom sheet,
- then take two sheets lapped halfway meeting in the center and hanging
over the left and right sides of the pan in landscape orientation. Brush
- Put another full sheet across (brushing each sheet with butter) and keep repeating
these alternating layers 3 times having started and stopped with a full
sheet across the pan, until about 10 sheets
(7 layers, with 3 sheets overhanging the sides on the left and right) are
- Then spread half the grated cheese mixture evenly across the pan.
- At this point it is pointless to continue trying to explain. See the
two cheese layer configuration
diagram. Which is actually somewhat a mathematical problem, especially
in the case of two cheese layers.
- At the end it is probably preferable to have a final full sheet so that
the precutting before baking it not prejudiced by the accidental mid-lap
of two halves.
- Bob reasoned that the long side is open and it causes
no problem, so what is all this hassle accomplishing? Ani was convinced and we
buried the tradition.
- 2009 UPDATE NOTES: the puff pastry makeover
We quickly abandoned the crazy fold-over stuff. Any way you get layers is
fine, laying down one layer after another, and afterwards you just cut the
rectangular portion sizes. We also evolved to using puff pastry, and hence
only two dough layers: a bottom and a top layer, with the cheese in between.
And then to individual puffs made with puff pastry sheets rolled out a bit
thinner and cut into 3-4 inch squares, then filled and folded either across
the diagonal to make a triangle or in half to make a rectangle, and then
pressing the open edges with a fork to seal them. Before using these sheets
for individual pastries, roll them out thinner to about 12-16 inch squares.
Only work with one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet refrigerated
after thawing out overnight in the refrigerator. [The butter in the dough
will become too soft to work with if left at room temperature.] Baking time is reduced to about 20 minutes. See the illustration page for
the different look and feel of the results. The texture is clearly different
than the many phyllo dough layer approach, but too often the latter are dry
at the top sheet and around the edges anyway (not when we do it---it is the
other Armenians who are trapped by their tradition) . After years of
evolving this recipe, in 2012 we decided to try
an occasional variant of this traditional recipe.
- Illustrations available.