Potato burekas are one of the most common and beloved fillings for these popular Israeli savory pastries. With delicious homemade potato filling, these just might edge up to the top. My potato burekas use frozen puff pastry for an easy and quick batch of burekas.Yum
If cheese burekas are the chocolate of the burekas world, than potato burekas are the vanilla: a plain canvas, and also, sometimes exactly the comforting thing you need, and nothing else will do. It's requisite to have potato burekas in any mixed burekas situation, but they really deserve their own time in the spotlight, like as killer apps to a meat meal. The homemade version, with a good lot of browned onions mixed into the potato, are downright delicious. And, with puff pastry, they're easy, too. (Stay tuned for from-scratch burekas dough, it's coming!)
Making the potato filling
For something so simple, you get major flavor payback: all that goes into the potato filling are some nice yellow potatoes, fried onion, salt and pepper, and an egg yolk. (It's very similar to the filling for potato pierogi.) To make it, you boil whole peeled yellow potatoes until they're tender, 25-30 minutes: 3 small potatoes or 2 medium. Meanwhile, finely chop a small onion or half a medium one and fry in olive oil until softened and browned. Mash the boiled potates into the onions, season with salt and pepper, mix in an egg yolk, and the filling is ready to be stuffed into burekas.
Shaping potato burekas
By established tradition, potato burekas are rectangular. This is to visually distinguish them from cheese burekas (triangular), mushroom (half-rounds), and spinach (rectangular with vents). To get the classic rectangular shape, I tried both sheets of puff pastry and puff pastry pre-cut into squares. I found the sheets work better. The pre-cut squares were not quite large enough to fold over, so a single burekas needed two squares sandwiched together and firmly pinched shut. So, I recommend using sheets of pastry. However, if you are willing to relinquish the traditional rectangular shape and make your potato burekas triangular, the precut squares of puff pastry make the job easier.
To shape potato burekas from a sheet of puff pastry, you'll want to cut rectangles about 5"x3" / 13x8 cm. However, you can eyeball it and visually divide your sheet of puff pastry into even thirds. (The short side of the rectangle you cut will actually be the long edge of the burekas after folding.) If you've got a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, they are great for this job, but a regular sharp knife works too.
You can place a fairly generous amount of filling on one half of the rectangle, about a tablespoon. Fold it over and crimp firmly using your fingertip. You want the burekas to remain mostly sealed, but they're supposed to puff up and opening slightly at the seams is expected.
Baking the burekas
I find that burekas bake best at 375F / 190C. All you have to do is brush the tops with beaten egg wash and let the oven do its magic, which takes about 25 minutes. You want your burkeas to be well puffed and medium gold when you remove them fromt he oven. Potato burekas from the bakery generally don't have a sesame seed sprinkle as do cheese burekas, but you can certainly add sesame seeds or even nigella seed (ketzach) if you like, which would be great here.
Unbaked burekas freeze exceptionally well and turn out exactly as delicious as ones you shape and place right in the oven. Since this batch makes a fairly large amount, you can freeze half for later: just place the shaped burekas on a lined baking sheet and freeze on the sheet for 30 minutes or so, then pop them in a bag for storage (they won't stick together this way). When you're ready for some fresh burekas, bake them just as you would fresh burekas, with egg wash on top. They will take just a few extra minutes to bake and puff up (less than five).
Looking for more Israeli savories?
- Arayes - Israeli Meat-Stuffed Pita - Unbelievably good, these spiced meat savory pitas are easy to make, too.
- Yerushalmi Bagel - An Airy, Sesame-Crusted Bagel (dairy) - If you're up for a project bake, this one is immensely satisfying and will make you feel like you're roaming the streets of the Old City.
- Israeli Corn Pizza with Black Olives - The authentic slice of Israel. Try it!
- 1 package puff pastry - 2 sheets
- 3 medium yellow potatoes
- 1 small onion
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white or black pepper
- 1 egg - beaten, for egg wash
- sesame or nigella seed - optional
- Set out the puff pastry to defrost before making the filling.
Make the filling:
- Set a pot of water to boil. Peel the potatoes, leaving them whole, then add them to the pot.
- Finely mince the onions and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil over a medium flame. When browned and softened, add them to a mixing bowl to cool slightly.
- When the potatoes are fork tender, add to the bowl along with the onions and mash well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolk and mix well, until creamy.
- Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.
Shape the burekas:
- Unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, slice a column into thirds, each rectangle about 5"x3" / 13x8 cm. Place 1 tablespoon of potato filling on one side of the rectangle. Fold in half, pressing to seal all around with your fingertip. Continue until you reach the end of the pastry sheet. You will have one long strip, which can be divided in half to make two more burekas.
- Place shaped burekas on lined baking sheets. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds, if using.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until well puffed and medium golden.