There are four canonical flavors that burekas come in: cheese, potato, mushroom, and, last but certainly not least, spinach. Spinach is probably the least common, but that doesn't mean it's any less wonderful. Generally the spinach burekas you find at bakeries or frozen at the supermarket will be made with a combination of spinach and mashed potato, making them dairy-free. This is a decidedly delicious version, and of course I've included it in the recipe below. However, when you make them yourself, you can easily sub in some ricotta cheese for the potato, for a dairy version that's somewhat different and equally great.
Making the filling for spinach burekas
The spinach filling for burekas starts with baby spinach (although you could use regular spinach, chopped) sauteed in olive oil with a bit of onion. To add volume, boil a whole, peeled yellow potato and mash well before mixing with the spinach and an egg yolk. To make a dairy filling, simply substitute for the mashed potato 1 cup of ricotta.
Shaping spinach burekas
By established tradition, spinach burekas are rectangular with vents slashed into the front. This is to visually distinguish them from cheese burekas (triangular), potato (rectangular), and mushroom (half-rounds). 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.
To shape spinach burekas from a sheet of puff pastry, you’ll want to cut rectangles about 5″x3″ / 13×8 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. (To see a visual of the process, have a look at my post on Potato Burekas.)
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 from the oven. Spinach 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).
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Spinach Burekas (dairy or parve)
- 1 package puff pastry - 2 sheets
- 1 lb baby spinach - 500 g
- ½ small onion
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white or black pepper
For parve version:
- 1 medium yellow potato
For dairy version:
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 egg - beaten, for egg wash
- Set out the puff pastry to defrost before making the filling.
Make the filling:
- If making parve filling: Set a pot of water to boil. Peel the potato, leaving it whole, then add them to the pot. (Omit and begin with next step for dairy filling.)
- Finely mince the onions and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil over a medium flame. When browned and softened, add the baby (or chopped) spinach and saute until wilted. Place in a mixing bowl to cool slightly.
- If making parve filling: When the potato is fork tender, add to the bowl along with the spinach onions and mash well.
- If making dairy filling: To the mixing bowl with the wilted spinach and onions, add the ricotta cheese and mash well to combine.
- Season the filling mixture 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. Make two to three slashes with a knife across the fronts. Brush with egg wash.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until well puffed and medium golden.