Banitsa (meaning crumpled or badly maintained) is a popular pastry dish served in Bulgaria. It is often served for Breakfast with yogurt or boza, and it can be eaten hot or cold. Traditionally it consists of layering up a mixture of whisked eggs and chunks of sirene between sheets of filo pastry, then it is baked in the oven.

The pastry is made from hard dough that consists of flour, eggs and water (sometimes for a sweeter pastry casing, the dough is made with milk, sugar and vanilla).

The pastry is an easy recipe to follow and is either made using homemade or store brought pastry sheets. If the pastry is been homemade, the dough will need to be either spread out and pulled through the fingers until it is approximately 1 millimetre thin, or a rolling pin can be used and the spreading out of the pastry will have to be done in stages using sprinkles of oil to stop the dough from sticking together. The pastry can also be spread out using a more difficult technique, by waving the pastry sheet above the head, very much like pizza base production, this is a more traditional technique. Store brought pastry sheets are mechanically spread out, and are partially dried out before packaging.

A traditional sweeter filling used in the filo pastry consists of a recipe of Sirene cheese, whisked eggs and yogurt (occasionally baking power may be added to the yogurt to make this rise in baking, this making the filling light and fluffy). Apples, pumpkins, Walnuts and cinnamon are also popular choices for a sweet pastry.

A popular savory filling include many different vegetables, the most popular been Spinach, nettles, leeks, cabbage and onions. Also in certain regions of Bulgaria, rice is a popular choice of filling. For a heartier pastry, a minced meat, onion and mushroom filling is a popular choice.

On holidays (such as Christmas and New Years), it is a tradition to add Kismets into the pastry, these are lucky charms. These could be such things as coins, symbolic objects or more modern little notes of well wishes on paper (including happiness, success or health) that are then wrapped in tin foil.

Banitsa Recipe

1 pack of filo dough
3 eggs
1 lb Sirene Bulgarian cheese (or feta cheese)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup of milk or yogurt
Crumble the cheese and mix this together with the milk and eggs (but do not over mix, the cheese should be lumpy).
Melt the butter into a cup.
Grease the bottom of a baking dish of your choice.
Layer up 5-6 sheets of the filo pastry dough into the dish, one after the other not all together at once. Butter should be brushed in between each layer.
Spread part of the cheese mixture on top and then layer another 3-4 filo sheets on top, but this time do not use butter in between.
Spread the remaining butter on top
Cut the prepared pastry into square portion sizes of your choice, and then bake this in the oven until golden (approximately 30 minutes at 400 F).