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Pita sa sirom or Sirnica

Burek in Bosnia refers only to the meat pies while the rest of the pies are called pita. Traditional pitas in Bosnia are conveniently called by the "staring" ingredient in the filling: hence sirnica comes stuffed with cottage cheese (mladi sir), zeljanica combines spinach and cheese, krompiruša features potatoes and tikvenica is stuffed with zucchini. Bosnian pitas are shaped as huge snails fitting into a round tray or as smaller ovals with a few coils. Either way making these pitas call for Olympic dough rolling skills as the phyllo dough sheets are over two meters in diameter.

Ingredients (6 servings):

For the phyllo dough/jufka:

1 cup water 

1/2 tsp salt

4-5 tbsp sunflower oil

350 g flour

For the filling:

500 g cottage cheese

3 eggs

salt to taste



1. Make the dough or jufka: In a medium size bowl with high sides pour in water, add salt, sunflower oil and some flour. Stir energetically with a wooden spatula into a pancake dough. Continue adding flour and stirring until you get soft dough. You may need to add more water or flour as you go.  Now put the spatula aside, put some flour on your palms and start kneading the dough with your hands rather energetically - you are going to make a very well-knead dough. The phyllo dough has to be very elastic to be rolled into paper-thin sheets: the longer and more energetically you knead the more elastic dough y ou will get. For better kneading try to knead pressing the dough with your right palm against the left palm, occasionally throw the dough against the kneading surface with an effort and shake the bowl with the dough so the dough hits the sides of the bowl now and then. Grease a stainless container with sunflower oil, oil the dough ball and place in the container. Close the container, shake horizontally for the dough to take shape of the container. Put in the refrigerator for a few hours - best overnight - this will make the dough more elastic.

2. Prepare the filling: whisk the eggs, add salt and cottage cheese and whisk together - the filling will naturally be crumbly. Set aside.

3. Roll the dough: Preheat the oven to 200 C. Since the sheets of dough are traditionally made huge - about 2 meter in diameter - you need some creativity to get it done at a regular kitchen. Originally Bosnian women use a large table covered by clean cotton towels or sheets and a meter long wooden rolling pin. You may try your dining table or... I heard that some women in Bosnia spread a tablecloth on the floor. You may still divide the dough into smaller parts and go one by one if there is no way for you to go bigger - that way you will come up with smaller portion pies instead of a large one. This is how to go about the rolling. Sprinkle some flour on a tablecloth, place the dough from the fridge in the middle of the table cloth, flatten it with your palm slightly and start rolling into a very thin sheet.

Once you get about 3-5 mm thick sheet place the rolling pin on the edge of the phyllo dough closer to you, hold it in the middle and start coiling the dough rotating the stick outwards. The idea is to hold the rolling pin in the middle, coil one layer of the dough and then then smoothen the dough on the rolling pin by gliding your fingers apart, place them back in the middle and repeat until the whole sheet of the phyllo dough is coiled on the rolling pin. Now roll the pin with an effort, unroll the dough and repeat the procedure a few times. Sprinkle the flour now and then on the working surface so the dough does not stick. Another trick to master will be to coil half of the dough on the rolling pin, lift the pin holding it by one of the edges and while keeping it horizontal wave it as a flag for the dough to get even thinner under the own weight. The ultimate step is to spread the paper-thin dough on the towels and gently pull the edges to make them as thin as the rest of the dough sheet. It is not a major problem if the dough tears at the edges as it is so elastic and stretchable that during the pie-making you'll be able to "mend" it.

4. Make sirnica: Now we start making the pie. Drizzle the phyllo dough sheets with some oil and grounded corn. Plan your sirnica in such a way that the roll for one pie will be about 60 sm long. Sprinkle about 3-4 tbsp of the filling along one of the edges leaving about 5-6 sm on the outer side. Now fold the dough to cover the sprinkled filling with the remaining 5-6 sm of the dough; then slightly lift the edges of the tablecloth from the side of the dough sheet closer to you - the move will push your roll forward: let it make make 2-2.5 complete circles, cut it from the sheet and form a mega-sized oval snail. Place on a greased tray and continue with the rest of the dough. Bake at 200 C for about 30-40 minutes - use a toothpick to check if your sirnica is ready.



5. Let it Cool Down and Serve: Incline the tray to remove the excessive amount of grease, sprinkle some water over the sirnitca, use a brush to oil the top with the sunflower oil, cover with a towel and leave to rest and cool down for some time. Be patient: I remember my grandma doing the same with her yeast-based pies and we tried to sneak in, secretly uncover them to admire the mouth-watering toasted beauties and would get scolded for this as we were interrupting a really important process of the pie resting. So, don't be a kid and find a better thing to do while waiting for a pie to settle, cool down and come together - technically the cooking process is not over until the steam is inside the pastry. Once the pie is cooled you are good to go - traditionally sirnica is served with sour cream on top or a glass of yogurt.

Bosnian Cook
05/02/2013 21:23