Homemade Phyllo Dough

In Bosnia and neighboring countries phyllo dough (orignally jufka – read yoofkah) is often made for pastries such as pita/burek or baklava. Even though phyllo can be bought at the store or bakery, fresh, homemade phyllo is always the best! In the past it was very desirable for a young woman to know how to make jufka. Often after a girl learned how to make phyllo, family members would jokingly say “Well now you CAN get married!” Sooo, I hope you can imagine how important phyllo dough is in a young girl’s life and in what kind of pressure I was to learn how to make it! 🙂 A Bosnian husband wants a wife who knows how to make pita and baklava! All jokes aside, I really like that I’ve learned how to make jufka, to keep tradition alive and to treat my family and friends with this delicious food of my ancestors.

Phyllo dough can be made two ways (that I know of). One, with a very long rolling pin and other, with pulling and stretching dough by hand until paper thin. I use the second technique because it’s easier and somewhat less time consuming.

When making phyllo dough, give yourself plenty of time, as this is a process of kneading – resting – kneading – resting – resting – stretching – baking… plus preparing the filling. It is time consuming, but so well worth it in the end!

There are different recipes for phyllo, which warry in adding or excluding one or two ingredients. The key ingredients are flour, warm water and salt. Some add an egg to it, some add vinegar, some oil, depending on how it’s made in their family. I also want to point out that you can’t use any kind of flour for phyllo. I’ve tried 4-5 different brands with horrible results (the dough wouldn’t stretch, it was rubbery and ended up in the trash can). In the US the best flour for phyllo (in my opinion) is King Arthur all-purpose flour.

Also, there are different ways of shaping phyllo pastries. Two traditional Bosnian ways are to shape it as swirls or layer it. Here I will show how to make pita/burek swirls.

Homemade Phyllo Dough or Jufka (Yufka)       Printable recipe

*** This is a recipe for a larger quanity. You may use just half the measure.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups (640 g) flour (King Arthur all-purpose flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 ¼ cups (530 ml) warm water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp oil

Also needed:

  • Cotton table cloth or fabric to cover the table for stretching the dough
  • Pizza knife or any sharp knife
  • Large baking pan
  • Oil to grease the pan

***FILLINGS (For the above quantity of dough use about 1 lb of any two fillings below)

Cottage cheese filling (cottage cheese, sour cream, egg and salt)

Ground beef feeling (finely chop onion and sauté in a bit of oil, add ground beef and sauté just until brown, salt and pepper to taste)

Spinach filling (blanched spinach, cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, sour cream, egg, salt)

Preparation:

  1. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine warm water, vinegar and oil and slowly start pouring into flour mixing the whole time. If the dough is sticky add more flour.
  2. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces (3 pieces if using ½ above measure). Knead each piece on a flour dusted surface about 50 times and form it into a ball. Make sure each ball is dusted with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
  3. After resting the dough balls will be soft to touch and smoother than before. Repeat the kneading process and again form them into balls, just this time coat every piece with cooking oil so they look nice and shiny. Cover again with plastic wrap and let rest for another 20-30 minutes.
  4. Brush your working surface with oil and roll out the ball of dough into an approx. 12 X 7 inch oval (30 X 18 cm). Brush the top of it with oil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Cover the table with cloth, grease the baking pan and pre-heat the oven to 425 F (218 C).
  6. Place the rolled out dough piece on a rolling pin and transfer it onto the cloth. Put both hands under the dough with palms up and stretch gently from the middle to the sides. The dough is supposed to be elastic and stretchy (if not, let it rest for about 10 more minutes then try again). After that, stretch the sides so the whole piece covers the table.
  7. Please see the photos on how to add filling and wrap it.

Bake until golden brown and enjoy!

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