The smell of butter inside a warm and cosy bakery in the middle of winter.. It reminds me so much of my childhood. When I was a kid, I didn’t like having breakfast at home before the school. So my mother would buy me one “pogaca”, a kind of flaky pastry that is similar brioche and I would eat that as breakfast, accompanied by that lovely butter smell all around me. Later on when I was a teenager, during high school years, we would go to the bakery behind the school building every morning with my friends sharing the same school bus. The bus would leave us outside the building, so we would first go to the bakery and eat a pogaca fresh out of the oven and then go inside the building..
I live on a tiny street and on the same street, there is also one of the very few bakeries of Helsinki. Some mornings, when I go out very early, the butter smell coming from the bakery fills the whole street. This immediately takes me back to many many years ago. I am living such a different life now that it feels as if it was someone else’s life. But I know that even though life changes fast and it takes us to places we didn’t even think of before, the memories will always be with us, and food will remind them constantly.
Pogaca, as I said in the beginning, is a flaky, buttery pastry that resembles brioche bread a lot. There are many recipes of pogaca on the internet, but most of those recipes do not really taste like those sold in bakeries, they get really stiff and not as flaky. This recipe that I use to create this cheesy version is the recipe for brioche bread that I adapted from chef Byron Talbott. I used the exact recipe for the pastry, shaped it in bun form and added the cheese and parsley parts.
There are many other versions of pogaca where you can use this same brioche recipe for the pastry part – you can then fill the buns with potatoes, ground meat, olives, or you can make plain version but sprinkle sesame seeds on it. It’ll be almost the same as “pogaca” sold in Turkish bakeries. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
Difficulty: ★★☆ (Medium)
(makes 15 buns)
For the pastry:
5 tbsp + 1 tsp / 1/3 cup milk, warmed (but not too hot)
1 1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
8 ego yolks (plus 1 more egg yolk separately, to brush on the buns)
5 dl + 2 tbsp + 2 tsp / 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
115 gr. butter, softened in room temperature
a pinch of salt
For the filling:
200 gr. cream cheese
100 gr. grated hard cheese of your choice
2 dl. parsley, finely chopped
1. In a mixing bowl, put warm milk, sugar and yeast and give it a quick stir. Let it sit for 10 minutes and wait for yeast to activate.
2. After 10 minutes, the yeast must be activated and the milky mixture should be foamy. When this happens, add the egg yolks and about half of the flour and beat them well for about 5 minutes in medium speed.
3. Add butter, about 1 tbsp at a time, while continuously beating the mixture.
4. When all butter is added and is incorporated, add remaining flour and salt. Change the mixer’s attachment to dough hook and knead for a few minutes (if you do not have electric mixer, you can do all these steps perfectly by hand).
5. Once the dough in the mixer bowl has gotten quite together, transfer it to a lightly dusted surface and continue kneading by hand until you get a nice, soft dough (do not dust the surface too much, you don’t want too much added flour). Butter a clean bowl generously and put the dough in the bowl, covering its entire surface with butter. Cover the bowl with a stretch film and let it sit for about 1 hour in a warm part of your kitchen. It should double in size in that time (if not, then keep it a bit longer).
6. When the dough rises enough, deflate it a little and cut pieces to form the buns. I made each piece about 43-44 gr. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, don’t worry and take pieces that are a bit bigger than large walnuts. When you make the buns and put them on an oven tray with a baking sheet on, cover them with a clean kitchen towel and leave for final proofing while you start heating the oven.
7. Preheat the oven to 190C.
8. When the oven is ready, brush the surface of the buns generously with egg yolk. Bake for 20 minutes, until they get golden brown. Once baked, take out of the oven and let them cool down for at least 20 minutes before you add the filling.
9. When the buns are cooling down, prepare the filling by finely chopping the parsley and mixing the cheeses.
10. Cut each bun in the middle: I didn’t cut all the way but just 3/4 of the edge, but you can cut the buns all the way if you prefer it that way. Open the cut bun, spread some cheese in the middle and close it. Spread a little bit of cheese on the cut edges, then dip this cheesy part in the parsley so that finely chopped parsley pieces stick to the cheesy opening of the buns. Serve the buns fresh with some nicely brewed tea or coffee! They are good for breakfast or for 5 o’clock teatime! Enjoy!