Burek sa Sirom (Cheese Burek) – Phyllo & Homemade Dough Versions

burek-sa-siromAlthough we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, I decided to make my husband one of his favorite meals….and one that I can barely stand. Now that’s love, right? Anyways, although burek isn’t a traditional Croatian dish, per say, (it was brought to the region by the Ottomans and introduced to Croatia, at some point, probably by Bosnians and/or Serbians), nonetheless it is probably one of the most eaten “fast foods” in Croatia.  That makes it Croatian….I guess? Anyways, whenever we get hungry and we’re walking around Osijek, we always end up in a bakery eating burek. Well, actually, he eats burek and I eat hrenovke u tjestu, MY favorite bakery food and the subject of a future post. Now cheese burek has always been a bit of a challenge to make because the type of cheese that’s used in Europe, we don’t have access to here. But substituting cottage cheese and feta (as well as adding some small peaces of phyllo to the filling–a trick I picked up from Kristina Kuzmič’s Sticky Chef video recipe) works well. This particular recipe is adapted and tweaked from a Romanian version and will make one pie pan worth of burek.

Update: So the easiest way to make this dish is, of course, with phyllo dough, but I thought I’d add in the completely from scratch version (i.e. homemade dough) and a new shape–coiled like a snake! Or motani, as it is called here. Because its so much fun to make and not possible with phyllo.

Pie-Shaped Version (Phyllo Dough & U.S. Substituted Cheeses)
  • 12 oz fat free cottage or farmers cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 heaping tbs flour
  • pieces of phyllo dough (I usually use the  ones that break off, if the dough has dried out a little)
  • phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix the first 5 ingredients to make the filling. Add as much phyllo dough as necessary to give the filling a bit more thickness (particularly if on the watery side).
Next butter the bottom of a pie pan and add in a layer of phyllo dough. Lightly butter and repeat until you have laid 5 sheets. Add enough of the filling to cover the bottom (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) and then add 5 more buttered layers of phyllo. Repeat until all of the filling is gone and you end with 5 layers of phyllo on top. Make sure to butter the top of the last phyllo layer so that it browns and flakes up nicely.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely puffed and golden brown.
Serve warm. Enjoy!

Coil-Shaped Version (Homemade Dough & Croatian Cheeses)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 375 g zagrebački or svježi sir (you can substitute this for farmers cheese if you are outside of Croatia)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 heaping tbs flour
  • butter, melted
In a medium sized bowl, add the flour and salt. Make a well and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Next add the water gradually, stirring as you do so and incorporating well.
Next, knead the dough on a well-floured surface, adding more flour as the dough gets sticky. Knead for about 5-8 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic (this is important so that it stretches properly). Just as you would make štrukli, roll out the dough VERY THIN. Literally paper thin. What I do is usually roll it out into a decent sized square and then stretch it out with my hands the way my baka taught me to make apple štrudle–the same way shown in this video. As long as you kneaded the dough properly, it’s really not that hard. The weight of the dough basically does all the work for you. You just need to have a gentle touch and if it stretches too thin and a hole forms, just pinch it together again. Practice makes perfect!
Now preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
In a large bowl mix the cheeses, egg, and flour together. It should not be too watery because this will cause it to leak out of the dough during baking. Spoon the cheese mixture around the edges of the dough in about a 2 inch thick line around the edges, BUT 2 inches from the edge. Leave an opening of a few inches between the beginning and end of the cheese line because this is where you will start cutting the dough  in order to start rolling it. (I promise it isn’t as confusing as it sounds!)
Brush the rest of the dough with the melted butter. Next, cut a line to the middle of the dough, starting from the area you did not add cheese. Cover the cheese with the edge of dough and start rolling it (making sure to also first tuck in the initial edge to keep the cheese inside) slowly and carefully, so that it does not break. Continue to cut the dough down the middle, as needed. Eventually, you will have one long “snake” of burek. At this point, you can start coiling it.
Place on an oiled baking sheet, brush with melted butter, and bake for about 1 hour or until nicely golden.
Serve warm.  Enjoy!
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