Feta Cheese Tutmanik


Bulgarian cross between bread and Serbian "sour dough" turned into buns

dedicated to Nadyia, the lovely, humble winner of  The Great British Bake Off 2015

This post jumped the queue. I have been exploring the The book of buns lately and after making one baking trip from my kitchen to Morocco and another one to Italy (hopefully those posts won't stay in my drafts forever, like a few others I deleted yesterday), I almost reached the end of the book when I found myself looking into a picture of Tutmanik, a popular Bulgarian bread recipe. I remember eating it a long time ago and thinking about it as a very inventive way of blending a regular bread recipe with Serbian sour dough. The sour dough I am talking about is actually not a Serbian speciality, it's well known and spread through out the region (original name - "kiselo testo") and it should not be mistaken for a variety of wild yeast starter, although it sounds like it's the same thing. This dough is made with regular yeast but has a distinctive taste due to its extended proofing time and is very often turned into buns, we make a version of them called "penjurlije", which I adored when I was little. I however, haven't made or seen anything that resembles this simply great way of using the dough in a form of Tutmanik - baked like bread, all puffed up and layered, filled with feta cheese and sprinkled with red paprika flakes. For me Tutmanik (and my beloved penjurlije) tells a story about originality and tradition and at the same time represents the very best of what the Balkans have to offer to the world of baking.

Feta Cheese Tutmanik (Tootmanik)

450 g plain flour
4 g dry yeast, (or 10 g fresh)
250g warm milk
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp soft butter ( or lard)

1 egg
250 g feta cheese, crumbled
4 tbsp melted butter

 ground paprika for topping

small baking pan ( about 15 x 15 cm, not bigger than 20x20 cm)

Put the flour into a bowl and sprinkle yeast in the middle, pour on the milk; close the well with flour and leave to rest for about 1 hour.
Add the salt, mix and knead for about 10 minutes, add the butter and knead for another 10 minutes, cover and allow to rest for 2 hours.
Mix the egg with the feta cheese, melt the butter and allow to cool.

Turn the dough onto a surface and divide into 9 equal pieces, about 85 - 90 g each. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then roll each piece into 10x10 cm square, then brush with melted butter. Top with another square brushed with butter and put the third square piece on the top without brushing it with butter.
Do the same with the rest of the pieces. Roll each stuck into a rectangular the size of your baking tin and place it in the prepared tin ( see pictures below). Brush it with melted butter and spread over half the feta cheese mixture. Repeat with the next 3 pieces of dough and place that stuck on the top of the cheese mixture. Brush with melted butter and spread it with the other half of the cheese mixture. Put the third 3 piece dough stack on the top. With hands, push down all around the outside edge , between the dough and the pan, so that you seal in the cheese. Really pull down the top layer  and stick it well under the rest of the dough to prevent creating a "hat" on the top of the dough.
Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 230 C/450F and just before baking, brush the top with melted butter or egg glaze and sprinkle some paprika on if you like ( and which I highly recommend).
Turn the oven down to 200C/400F as soon as you put the tin in and bake for  about 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and cut only when it's warm. Serve with soup or salad .

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