GOOD morning - dobro utro! Another beautiful morning in Bulgaria, and it's breakfast time... so, go ahead and have your cup of coffee and cigarette. What better way to start the day?!
In recent years in any case, the coffee/cigarette combo has been a common way to `get your metabolism going in the morning' (overheard by an aerobics instructor at a local sports complex).
Later in the day perhaps, after 10am, Bulgarians will indulge in `burza zakuska,' loosely translated as `fast snack.' Zakuska literally means breakfast, so this may cause some confusion. Zakuska, the `breakfast snack,' can actually be eaten any time of day, though if you want it fresh, the best times are generally amid the 10-11am rush, when they are often just being made. Look around though, because some stands bake much earlier in the day (just be wary at 7am in the morning of buying reheated leftovers from the day before).
You've probably noticed the many stands for burza zakuska throughout Sofia and the rest of the country (if we had to guess, we'd estimate there are approximately three and a half million of these little snack windows across Bulgaria. That's about, what, two or three people per window?).
Here's a quick guide to zakooska in Bulgaria.
1. Banitsa (aka, banichka) - flaky pastry with a white cheese and egg mix filling, served in various shapes, by portion or by weight, by far the most common zakuska. Homemade and at the better stands you can often find different fillings, including spinach, leeks, onions, and a seasonal favourite called tikvenik: banitsa with pumpkin and cinnamon filling.
2. Kifla - closest zakuska to a croissant; generally filled with jam, usually plum. Other variations include chocolate, cheese, or Turkish delight (called a lokumka, from the Bulgarian word for Turkish delight, lokum). Sometimes kifli are simply sprinkled with poppy seeds or powdered sugar without fillings.
3. Milinka - a large round roll made up of small balls of dough joined together while baking and topped with white cheese, often served with powdered sugar.
4. Gevrek - a ring shaped snack that can be small or large, occasionally they are very bread-like but usually more of a cross between a soft pretzel and a bagel. Store-bought gevreks are often covered with sesame seeds.
5. Pitka - a general term for a plain roll, which can come in assorted shapes and sizes.
6. Kozunak - a braided loaf of sweet bread topped with crystallised sugar, occasionally filled with raisins, nuts, or lokum.
7. Kozunache - a small kozunak, or roll of sweet bread.
8. Sirenka - a baked roll filled with sirene or izvara (a Bulgarian cheese similar to ricotta).
9. Tutmanik - a white cheese filled roll, topped with a yogurt and egg mixture while baking (similar to banitsa, but not pastry-like).
10. Kozunacheno rulo - a rolled bread with a swirl of jam, and sometimes nuts, baked with an egg glaze until shiny and brown on top.
11. Krenvirshka - a long roll of bread with a frankfurter/hotdog inside.
12. Purlenka - a half-circle of dough, stuffed with white cheese and folded then topped with yellow cheese.
13. Salamka - a purlenka with sausage instead of white cheese.
14. Kremka - a creme-filled, fried dough, often in the shape of a circle, rectangle, or triangle.
As you've likely noticed, most are fairly oily and cheesy, or thick and meaty. Occasionally you can find a lighter alternative, which usually includes gevreks (#4) - for those of you who live in Sofia, you'll find tasty, homemade gevreks being sold on every other corner from a large burlap bag. Out here in Dobrich, we'd like to claim the best gevreks in the country - come on out and see for yourself! They're baked in a stone-oven, and they're so hot and fresh they're passed to you with a long wooden stick. You can't find a better 20 stotinki treat anywhere, we promise you!
Hope you're not too hungry, now, after reading all this - but if you are and feel like visiting your kitchen, go ahead and whip up some kiflichkli, or `many little kifli.' Be weary; this particular recipe will make 64, so adjust as necessary or save the dough in your refrigerator for later. Hope you like them!
3 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1/2 cube yeast (put it in a little warm water with a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of flour to dissolve)
As much flour as needed to make a kneadable, not sticky, dough
Optional fillings: cheese, lokum, chocolate, jam, nuts, seeds, etc.
Combine all the ingredients to make dough. Knead and let rise, knead again and divide into eight balls. Roll out each ball to a large, flat circle 5-6mm thick (about the size of a dinner plate, 25cm diameter.) Then slice the dough circle into eight triangular slices, similar to pizza slices. Each `slice' is then spread with a small amount of filling at the wide end. Roll from this end into a tube-like shape, with pointed ends, and curve ends in to form a croissant shape. Let rise again slightly. Paint with a little egg white and sprinkle with seeds or sugar. Bake in a medium oven until barely light brown.
Catie Banks and Colleen Spindler-Ranta are U.S. Peace Corps volunteers currently working in Dobrich. Their column appears weekly and they can be contacted through email at Coll@dobrich.org.
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