bulemas pastry recipe sephardic
Photo credit Sharon Gomperts

The Flakiest Cheese and Spinach Bulemas Recipe

These Sephardic pastries are crispy, savory, cheesy heaven.

Bourekas, boyos and bulemas are flaky, savory pastries, and just might be the crowning jewel of the Sephardic kitchen. Potato or eggplant bourekas, cheese boyos or spinach and cheese bulemas are traditionally served as part of the Sabbath desayuno (Ladino for “breakfast,” and a tradition in communities of the former Ottoman empire). These trademark baked goods are usually accompanied by Kalamata olives, kashkaval cheese and huevos haminados, eggs that have been baked overnight with onion skins, oil and pepper to achieve a golden-brown color and a wonderfully smoky, caramelized flavor.

Bulemas are related to “bollos de pan,” a dish invented in the Sephardic kitchen as a way to use up stale bread. (“Bollos” in Spanish means balls and “pan” means bread.) By soaking the bread in milk, flavoring it with spices and cheese, rolling the resulting dough into balls and then frying, the Sephardic Jews who settled in Istanbul and Izmir created a flavorful snack. Bollos were so popular that soon cooks replaced stale bread with a dedicated flaky, crusty dough just for them. Along the way, the spelling changed to boyos. Boyos or boyikos de keso are a delicious cheese pastry that incorporates cheese in the dough. 

Bulemas, which confusingly are sometimes also called boyos, are made with the same dough. The dough is rolled out flat, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, stuffed with a fresh spinach and feta cheese filling, rolled into a snail-like coil, brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with finely grated Romano cheese. The bulemas are quickly baked in a very hot oven and the result is crispy, flaky, cheesy heaven. 

Making bulemas is a time-consuming endeavor but they are so worth the effort. They are a perfect food to serve as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres, snack or as a light meal with salad. Bulemas are one of those foods that store beautifully in the freezer and can be reheated and still taste absolutely perfect. So grab a baking partner, triple the recipe, and spend a morning kneading, rolling and stuffing dough to bake some delicious bulemas. 

Notes:

  • While fresh spinach is preferable, frozen spinach can be substituted. Ensure that it is defrosted and all liquid squeezed out.
  • Freeze cooled bulemas in a tightly sealed container or freezer bag. To reheat, preheat oven to 350°F, place frozen bulemas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
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bulemas pastry recipe sephardic
Photo credit Sharon Gomperts

Cheese and Spinach Bulemas

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

These Sephardic pastries are crispy, savory, cheesy heaven. 

  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 20 bulemas 1x

Ingredients

Scale

For the filling:

  • 2½ lb fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable or avocado oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

For baking:

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg beaten, for egg wash

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, cheeses and flour. Set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar and let proof for 10 minutes.
  3. Combine the oil with the salt and add to the yeast mixture.
  4. Using a standing mixer with a dough hook or by hand, start incorporating the flour, one cup at a time. Dough should come together in 3-5 minutes and be just a bit sticky.
  5. Pour vegetable oil onto a baking sheet until it reaches halfway up the sides.
  6. Roll the dough into golf-ball-sized pieces, then place on the baking sheet and leave covered with towel for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  8. Using a small rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as possible, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  9. Add a little of the filling and roll the dough like a jelly roll.
  10. Coil the roll into a snail and place on a baking sheet. Repeat to make all the bulemas. 
  11. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  12. Place in the oven and bake until the bulemas are a golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Notes

  • While fresh spinach is preferable, frozen spinach can be substituted. Ensure that it is defrosted and all liquid squeezed out.
  • Freeze cooled bulemas in a tightly sealed container or freezer bag. To reheat, preheat oven to 350°F, place frozen bulemas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • Author: Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Sheff
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes + 1 hour for the dough to rise
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Sephardic

6 comments

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

  • Yaffa Hanouna (Turgeman)

    Borekas are a staple in every Mediterranean Sephardic community, I just published my Sephardic flavor’s cookbook based on my Sephardic cooking channel and blog, I am happy to share my version of Borekas on your blog as well, please let me know if interested, thanks, yaffa/Sephardic flavors






  • Malkah Levi

    Time consuming, but, oh my, well worth the effort. Simply spectacular and reminds me of my childhood in Andalusia at my grandma’s house.

  • Susan Baldwin

    I’m most curious about putting 2C oil onto a baking sheet, then adding the balls to rise for 1 hr. Instructions then say roll out dough fill with cheese and spinach and place in the oven. Back on the baking tray I assume? Why so much oil? Please explain, doesn’t make sense to me. Thank you

  • Michael B. Varon

    That sounds wonderful, I wish I could cook!
    Back in the day, in Seattle they would make them coiled like that, now they make them like a small loaf, kind of like a maple bar shape.
    One of the recipes I really miss was what we kids called Pinwheels. It was a small flat cheesy cookie where the dough was rolled out flat, washed with egg, covered with a hard cheese, then rolled up and the round tube was then sliced and the cookies were put on a baking sheet, given another egg wash and more cheese and then baked. It ended up as a hard savory, cheesy cookie. Do you have that recipe?






  • Lisa harvith

    Don’t preheat your oven and then prepare your dough and let it rise for an hour!. What a waste of fuel! Correct the instructions please.

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