Made with a quick and easy-to-work-with kefir dough, these Moldovan flatbreads are stuffed with feta cheese, sorrel (you can use spinach instead if you can't find sorrel), scallions, and fresh dill. They're wonderfully savory and filling next to soup or heated up for lunch. This recipe makes four flatbreads.
I discovered these Moldovan flatbreads in Olia Hercules' wonderful cookbook Mamushka, a culinary tour through the former Soviet Union from Russia down to Georgia, with plenty of Ukrainian representation. I've mentioned before the cookbook I have that collects recipes from Holocaust survivors, Recipes Remembered; one of the striking aspects of that book, to me, was the simplicity and seasonality of the recipes, how the people interviewed remembered the taste of spring butter or the first winter berries. (For more on the seasonality and freshness of Ashkenazi cooking, I highly recommend Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern's Gefilte Manifesto.) It got me curious about the food landscape of the lands where my own relatives lived for so long, which is where Olia Hercules' book comes in: I bought it because the cuisine of the FSU forms a backbone of my own culinary heritage, if filtered through a kosher, Jewish lens. And indeed, the book is a thorough, diverse introduction to Eastern European food heritage.
There's a whole chapter of breads (separate from the equally tempting chapter on filled noodles), which is where I discovered these Moldovan flatbreads. You'll have me anytime at breads filled with cheese, but these are also so easy to make and delicious as leftovers, I can't stop making them.
Making the feta, sorrel, and herb filling
I'd never had sorrel, a green leafy vegetable (used also like an herb), until Mamushka. Happily, I chanced upon it soon after reading about it at my local garden center, and it's been one of the happiest plants in my kitchen garden ever since. Sorrel leaves are just about the same size at spinach and though they taste a bit, hmm, earthier and more subtle than spinach, spinach is an excellent substitute if you can't find sorrel (the full-size leaves sold in bunches, not baby spinach).
After mincing the sorrel/spinach, scallions, and dill, they get mixed up with crumbled feta and the filling is ready to use.
Making the kefir dough
The kefir dough used to make these flatbreads is one of the friendliest doughs I've tried to knead and then work with. I've not experimented with substitutions for kefir, as kefir is now readily available everywhere here in Los Angeles. My first substitution attempt would probably be buttermilk, followed by yogurt thinned 1:3 with milk. In Israel, I think Eshel would work well, too.
To mix the dough, you start by whisking together everything but the flour and baking soda. Then those two go in last, followed by about 5 minutes of kneading. The dough should be silky, soft, and just slightly tacky. If it's sticking too much, add a little flour, one tablespoon at a time.
Shaping Moldovan flatbreads
It's much more complicated to explain how to shape Moldovan flatbreads than it is to actually do it! The pictures will hopefully tell the tale more efficiently. Olia Hercules described the shape as being like an old-fashioned coin purse, the round pleated kind. After rolling out each part of the dough into a relatively thin circle (about 8" / 20 cm in diameter) and spreading a quarter of the filling over the surface, you begin by folding up an edge. this will then form a corner that you fold into the center. This gets repeated until you have 6-7 folds, sealing in the filling. The last step is to roll out the folded flatbread 2-3 times with a rolling pin to slightly flatten it.
Then, the breads are ready to be pan-fried in sunflower oil (you can also use another neutrally-flavored oil; sunflower is traditional), just a few minutes on each side.
Looking for more savory bakes?
- Cheese and Olive Bites
- Ziva - Israeli Malawach Pastry filled with Cheese and Olives
- Pissaladière – Provençal Caramelized Onion and Anchovy Pizza
- Cheese and Olive Stuffed Malawach Sun Pastry
Moldovan Feta, Sorrel, and Herb Stuffed Flatbreads (dairy)
- 1 cup kefir - 250 g
- ½ Tbsp sunflower oil
- ½ Tbsp white vinegar
- ½ Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour - 350 g
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 9 oz feta cheese - 250 g
- 6-8 large sorrel or spinach leaves
- 4 scallions
- 2 Tbsp dill, minced
Prepare the filling:
- Crumble the feta into a mixing bowl. Chop the sorrel (or spinach) and add to the bowl. Mince the scallions and dill and add to the bowl. Toss to combine, then set aside.
Make the kefir dough:
- In a mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, whisk together the kefir, sunflower oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- To the bowl, add the flour and baking soda and begin to knead (by machine or by hand). Continue kneading until a smooth, slightly (but not very) sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes. If it is excessively sticky, add a small amount of flour.
Assemble the flatbreads:
- Divide the kefir dough into four equal parts. Form each into a ball.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out into a relatively thin circle about 8" / 20cm in diameter.
- Spread approximately ¼ of the filling all around the flatbread.
- You will now fold the flatbread like an old-fashioned coin purse with pleats: Begin by folding up any side. Press the corner that is formed into the center. Keep folding in the corners, 6-7 times, until the flatbread is sealed in a pinwheel shape.
- After the flatbread is folded, roll it out 2-3 times with a rolling pin to flatten slightly.
Pan-fry the flatbreads:
- Heat a small amount (about 1 teaspoon) of sunflower oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, place a flabread into it, cooking until golden spots appear on the first side, 3-4 minutes. Flip the flatbread and cook another 2-3 minutes no the second side. Repeat until all four flatbreads are cooked.