When Ears Of Grain Take Wing

July 2014

A SAVORY WHEAT-BASED PASTRY THAT SPREAD FROM ANATOLIA AROUND THE WORLD, BEUREK IS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT POPS TO MIND AT THE MENTION OF RAMADAN.

Wheat, whose homeland is the fertile soil of Anatolia, is one of the world’s most important foodstuffs. Nourishing, versatile and easy to store, wheat quickly became a staple all over the world.

Central Asia and Anatolia have devoted their lives to the culture of wheat for millennia. And the Turks, who step by step achieved expertise in the use of wheat and its products, developed some impressive methods and techniques for rolling out dough in particular.

The making of palace “serpme” beurek, so-called because it is tossed and spun in the air, is a spectacular skill demonstration one never tires of watching. The transformation of the ear of wheat into flour, the flour into dough and the dough into a paper-thin sheet lighter and more transparent than silk is a veritable culinary phenomenon.

Techniques for rolling very thin dough arose mainly in eastern cultures. Such techniques are not employed in western cuisines today, but the Ottomans, through their relations in the Balkans, were inspired by the strudel of the Austrians. The equivalent of strudel in Turkey is “çarşaf” (sheet) beurek, which is rolled and stretched over a sheet of cloth, and palace “serpme” beurek is a form of çarşaf beurek made by tossing the dough without using a sheet.

Consumed in copious quantities at “Sahur” tables in Thrace and the Balkans during the month of Ramadan, these Turkish beureks are being kept alive today in Istanbul’s beurek parlors.

SARAY “SERPME” BEUREK
INGREDIENTS
1 kg flour
500 cl water
1 egg
30 g salt
300 g butter

FOR THE FILLING
250 g ground meat
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp currants
1/4 tsp allspice
Salt
Pepper

PREPARATION
Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the water, egg and salt to make a soft dough and knead to a homogeneous consistency. Let stand for half an hour. Divide the dough into 10 lumps. Brush each lump with oil and let stand. Roll out each lump of dough to the size of a dinner plate and brush with oil. Stack the oiled rounds of dough two by two and brush the tops with oil. You will have five rounds the size of a dinner plate. Let these stand in the refrigerator for an hour until they can be rolled with a rolling pin. Then, without tearing, pull each round from the edges until it is transparently thin. Patch any tears. Place a portion meat filling at one end and roll up. Arrange the sausage-shaped rolls on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with oil and bake in a pre-heated 170° C oven for 45 minutes.

PREPARATION OF THE FILLING
Brown the ground meat and onion in a skillet until all liquids are absorbed. Add the salt, pepper, pine nuts, currants and allspice, mix well and let cool.