Two hours and one tart crust down I concluded, “Who really needs this effort in Turkey where you can make almost any baked wonder with yufka dough, or Turkish phyllo!” French have butter so they make tarts. Turks have wheat and water so they make yufka dough. Which is more egalitarian by nature. Butter-loving individuals can still brush their yufka dough with butter and savor that delicate flaky pastry. Less aristocratic folk will simply season their yufka with the mix of sunflower oil, yoghurt and egg to get a substantial meal.
Yufka is a round sheet (60 cm, or 2 ft in diameter) of paper-thin dough used as a staple in Turkish cooking. The ingredients of this unleavened dough are as simple as it gets: flour, water and salt. Some add a bit of vegetable oil. The dough is then rolled with oklava, a meter long thin wooden rolling pin. If yufka dough is made in advance and will be kept for a few days it is first baked over sac, a large inverted round pan. Nowadays the pan is fixed over an electric grill while traditionally it is mounted on the stones right on top of the open fire. Slightly dried yufka dough sheets can then be safely stored: they will not stick to each other.
I first came across yufka dough when traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina: I sneaked into a local kitchen to watch a woman as she rolled a single yufka sheet 2×2 m (7×7 ft) in size. While it is still a tradition in the rural Turkey too and most women know well how use oklava in big cities making yufka dough at home becomes more of an extinct skill. Even good housewives in Istanbul would fetch fresh yufka dough from a neighborhood specialty shop (yufkaci) which will be selling just this – huge sheets of daily-made paper-thin dough. So that the presence and taste of the morning börek and tea time favorite sigara böreği is by no chance threatened.
Even though the use of yufka dough in Turkey is not limited to börek. Or baklava. For instance since the Ottoman times it has been used as edible parchment paper to cook pilaf, meatballs or fish inside it. As the yufka dough experiments continue I have come across this canoe-shaped Turkish phyllo pizza. It was featured in a recent episode by Refika Birgül, a definite authority on the modern days Turkish cooking. I could not help not cooking this phyllo pizza immediately.
I am giving the recipe with commercial phyllo since it is much easier to source outside of Turkey. Phyllo sheets are thinner and smaller than yufka: 3 phyllo sheets go for 1 fresh yufka dough sheet. If you are a yufka protagonist then, please, check out the tips at the bottom of the recipe. The pizzas on the photos are made of fresh yufka dough.
Turkish Phyllo Pizza
This quick to make and utterly delicious treat is effectively a dough roll transformed into a canoe-shaped phyllo pizza
Source: Adapted from Refika’s Kitchen
Prep Time: 15 Min
Cook Time: 25 Min
Total Time: 40 Min
- 12 sheets phyllo dough (kept in fridge overnight) or 4 fresh yufka sheets
- 100 g butter melted
- 200 g cheddar cheese (kasar peynir)
- 100 g spicy sausage (sucuk)
- 1 tomato skinned
- 1 thin green pepper
- Prepare phyllo dough: Preheat the oven to 200 C. Carefully open up the phyllo roll and spread out on the working surface smoothing all the folds. From this stack of paper-thin sheets you need to separate a smaller stack of 3 sheets. Set the rest aside and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Phyllo dough dries very quickly, and then looses its elasticity and starts breaking – you definitely want to avoid that by covering the dough.
- Assemble pizza: First we will turn the phyllo dough stack in front of you into a roll. Let’s start with brushing each layer with butter to get that wonderfully flaky pizza. Brush the upper layer, carefully lift and put aside on a piece of grease-proof baking paper and continue with the two other phyllo sheets. Now make sure the shortest side of the greased stack is facing you and put quarter of the grated cheese about 5 cm away from the stack’s edge closest to you. Form a sort of cheese Great Barrier Reef about 20 cm long. Now fold the remaining 5 cm of phyllo dough to cover the cheese barrier and fold in the both sides too that the cheese is tightly hugged by the phyllo. Now push your cheese parcel forward to make a large roll. Slighly brush with butter and put on a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat the procedure with the rest of phyllo sheets working 3-sheet batches to make 4 phyllo pizza in total. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly golden.
- Add toppings: Take out the tray with your phyllo rolls from the oven and with scissors make a cut on the top of each roll – right in the middle – leaving about 1 cm from each end so the pizza does not fall apart. Now with a spatula open up each phyllo pizza especially in the middle to form a canoe. Arrange the stuffing into each: I made two with sucuk (spicy sausage) and two with tomato and green peppers – favorite Turkish pizza toppings – yet you have a full license to go creative here. Send the pizzas to the oven for another 5-7 minutes until the toppings roast slightly. Serve immediately.
- Tip: If you use yufka instead of phyllo pastry you need to follow the same course of action besides that you don’t need to stack your yufka sheets: one yufka sheet will be enough to make one serving of phyllo pizza, just remember to brush it with butter thoroughly.