(Afghan stuffed savory and sweet pastries)
These triangular baked pastries come in both sweet and savory versions and are perfect as appetizers or with a cup of tea. The main recipe here is for meat (gosht) bichak, but try the pumpkin, cheese or jam versions too.
Makes 40 to 45 pastries
- Lukewarm (110°F) water -- 1/4 cup
- Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
- Flour -- 3 1/2 cups
- Salt -- 1 teaspoon
- Water -- 1 1/4 cups
- Egg, beaten -- 1
- Oil -- 1 tablespoon
- Egg yolks -- 2
Meat (gosht) Filling
- Oil -- 2 to 3 tablespoons
- Onions, finely chopped -- 2
- Ground lamb or beef -- 1 pound
- Salt and peppers -- to season
- Mix the lukewarm water and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
- Add 3 cups of the flour and the salt to large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, 1 1/4 cups water, beaten egg and oil. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together.
- Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding extra flour as needed, until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and is silky and elastic.
- Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- While the dough is rising, make the meat filling. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high flame. Add the onions and saute until they are cooked down and translucent, 4 or 5 minutes.
- Add the ground meat and saute, breaking up large chunks, until cooked through, another 6 or 7 minutes. Drain any excess fat, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with your fists to deflate it. Cut the dough in two and roll the out half the dough into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick.
- Use a cookie cutter or large glass to cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch rounds. Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into the middle of a round. Fold the bottom of the dough up over the filling then fold down the top on each side to form a triangle. Pinch the edges together to form a seam and seal in the filling. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- Place the bichak on a greased baking sheet. Beat the egg yolks with a little water and and brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastries are lightly browned and cooked through.
Bichak Notes and Variations
- Stir some diced, cooked potatoes into the meat filling.
- Kadu Bichak (Pumpkin-filled bichak): Saute a finely chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin in 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil until translucent. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin and season to taste with salt and pepper. For a sweeter version, eliminate the cumin and add 2 tablespoons of sugar. To use fresh pumpkin, simmer the pumpkin or butternut squash in a little water until it is cooked through, then drain and mash.
- Paner Bichak (Cheese-filled bichak): Beat 1 pound of farmer's cheese with 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 or 2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Fruit Bichak: For a sweet fruit filling, mix 2 cups of your favorite jam or preserves with 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs.
- Leftover bichak freeze well. To reheat, thaw out for 30 minutes, then bake in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.