Banitsa is an ubiquitous Bulgarian phyllo-pastry present on the Bulgarian table, in any of its multiple variants. The most common filling is sirene (feta) and eggs typically served at breakfast with plain yogurt or Ayran (a cold savory yogurt-based beverage mixed with salt). However, in Bulgaria, there are dozens of possibilities — sour cabbage (зелник), a sweet version with milk (млечна баница), pumpkin (тиквеник), and minced meat (баница с месо). Fortune “lucky” banitsa is a News Years Eve tradition in which amulets are placed into the pastry. These lucky charms may be coins or small symbolic objects. More recently, people have started writing well-wishes on small pieces of paper and wrapping them in aluminum foil. Wishes may include health, happiness, or success throughout the new year.
Ultimately, banitsa dough should be scratch and rolled by hand as it forms a sheet with the thickness of layered phyllo dough, which makes it turn flaky instead of crispy. I’ve decided to give you a Westerner-friendly short cut because of the laborious nature and skill mastery.
12 phyllo-pastry sheets
Four whole egg
Two egg yolks
8 tbsp butter, melted
½ lb sirene (feta), coarsely crumbled
¾ lb Bulgarian yogurt (preferably sheep’s milk yogurt)
Whisk yogurt with eggs.
Add cheese and mix well.
Take two sheets of phyllo and brush the top sheet with melted butter.
Place the third sheet on top of the first two and brush with butter.
Turn the three sheets over and brush with butter.
Divide the yogurt, egg, and cheese mixture into four equal parts, and evenly distribute across the phyllo-sheets.
Roll lengthwise and repeat this process three more times to get four long rolls.
Place in a springform pan or on a round baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Begin by placing the first roll by sticking to the edge of the circle, then add each following roll, forming a spiral to the center.
Beat egg yolks with the remaining melted butter and brush the entire banitsa.
Bake at 400F/200C for about 25 minutes or until golden.
Banitsa may be eaten hot or cold.