Bulgarian Pitka Bread

Hristo became an online friend of mine back when he was only 18 and trying to earn money off the net.  We met on a marketing forum and have been good friends ever since.   Those who don’t know me might think I’m new to the net but John and I have been net full-timers since 1995.

I love meeting new people and I love to travel, so when there was an Internet marketing conference in Prague I looked at John and said, “Why not go to Bulgaria while we’re over there and meet Hristo, it’s only an inch away from Prague on the map.”  John rolled his eyes and said, “If you want to, sure.”

belogradchik rocksWe did and we had the best time meeting Hristo and his friends Plamen and Georgy in Sofia.  Then we drove north to Belogradchik to meet Hristo’s mum and sister.  On our first visit up to Belogradchik there wasn’t even a hotel open for tourists to see the world heritage rocks.  The fortress was built in 600AD.  It’s a fascinating place if you ever get the chance to visit.

This is where we went to the smallest restaurant I’ve ever been to and I’m sure the friendliest.

The folks at the restaurant knew we were coming all the way from Australia and were dressed in traditional costume.  When it came time for me to order, the owner said, “No, no, we have chosen for YOU.”  What arrived was the funniest plate of food I’ve ever eaten.  It was called “A Slap in the Face,” and was a jumbo seasoned ground beef patty with vegetables arranged to make a face and the hair was made from sliced cucumbers.

Hristo speaks English really well and his mother spoke English but for the rest it was hit and miss.  Hristo learned to speak English from online chatrooms, can you believe it?  I can read one word in Bulgarian.  Restaurant.  (funny, that)

Anyway, Hristo and the love of his life, Emelya, are getting married in August.  Our reminder magnet sticks to my filing cabinet next to my desk.  I doubt we can afford to go but I’ve got my fingers crossed.  Bulgarians know how to party!

So what does this have to do with cooking?  I was strolling through food blogs the other day and came across Bohemian Kitchen.  Ever been there?  You should.  The most recent post was Pitka with Honey and the photo was amazing.  It’s three layers of bread dough filled with honey and butter, then cut into wedges and rolled into crescent rolls and then stacked into a round dish like a pyramid.  At least that’s how she did it.

Pitka Dough

When I saw that it was a Bulgarian recipe, I knew I needed to make it in honor of Hristo and Emelya because Pitka is also used in wedding tradition.  To be honest, I wanted to make it because it sounded amazingly good.  I had all the ingredients and the dough came together beautifully.

pitka after the first rise

Once the first rise was finished, I could have been Lucille Ball.  I took one ball of dough, flattened it and rolled it.  “This is going so well,” I thought.  “It rolls so nicely.”  I transferred it to another silicone sheet and brushed it with the butter, then drizzled it with a tablespoon of honey.  It smelled good.

pitka dough brushed with butter and honey

Then the fun began.  I rolled out the 2nd ball and then placed it on top of the first.  It was like walking on ice.  The 2nd layer moved and seemed to take on a life of its own.  It was ALIVE.  Okay maybe not alive but I seemed to chase it from one side to another and I was covered in honey and butter up to my elbows.  I did take photos but I had to go to the sink and nearly take a bath before I dared to touch the camera.  (note to self, when  making Pitka with honey, use a tripod)

I was dreading layer three.  Yes, both layers moved but I wasn’t going to quit.  I could see that finished pitka in my mind and even if it looked like crap I knew it was going to taste very good.  Onward I went. Note that the layers below are not even.  I’d stretch one side and the whole layer came with it.

John came in and said, “What is so funny?”

“I’m making crescent rolls.”

“That’s funny?”

“These are.”

“You’re a mess!”

“That’s funny,” I said.

The top layer went on and thankfully the recipe said nothing on top but a brush of honey at the fat end of the wedge, then cut into fours with a pizza cutter and cut each quarter into three til I had 12 rolls.  Cutting with a pizza cutter went really well, however rolling three layers of crescent roll dough filled with butter and honey brings in the Lucille Ball effect.

how to make pitka

I rolled the end just fine but then as the pieces of the wedge got thinner, they didn’t say together.  It was like making a crescent roll out of snakes.  Buttery snakes, I might add.  Normally I’m quite a mannered person who wouldn’t say a bad word to or about anything but folks, I talked to that bread like I was a sailor!

Finally all rolled and on the pan to rise for an hour.  I wondered how difficult it was going to be to stack those puppies up but I left them to rise.

pitka crescents

Stacking them was really easy.  They didn’t deflate.  Then I brushed them with the reserved egg yolk as instructed and then I sprinkled them with demerera sugar.  I know, not in her recipe, but I had to make it mine, right?

pitka ready to bake

Into a hot oven for 40 minutes and I went to watch the election results.  Our state went to the polls yesterday to elect a new government.  The old government got trounced completely – down to only 7 members in the parliament.  Amazing victory to the new government.

After the concession speech I went to check the oven and while my pitka could use some advice from a Bulgarian baba, I couldn’t wait to taste them.  I’d made butter the day before and took it out and added a tablespoon of honey (can’t have too much honey with this bread) and I was ready.

pitka with honey and butter

I couldn’t wait for them to cool enough to touch.

John doesn’t like sweets as a rule so I brought the pitka to the coffee table and asked if he wanted a piece.  “No thanks,” was the reply and I wasn’t surprised.

I pulled off that first piece and the layers separate like a cinnamon roll does. I added some of the honey butter and just as I was putting it in my mouth, John reached over and asked for a bite.  We ate the pitka until the honey butter was gone.  If I’d made 10 lbs of honey butter we’d still be downstairs eating.

It was that good.

So Bohemian Kitchen, you made my day!  Here’s my version.

5.0 from 11 reviews
Bulgarian Pitka Bread with Butter and Honey
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This is a Bulgarian "tear and share" bread that's absolutely devine!
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Bulgarian
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 3oz yogurt at room temperature
  • ⅔cup + 1-2tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted + about 2 more melted tbsp for greasing
  • 1 large egg, separated into white and yolk
  • 17oz all-purpose flour
  • honey
Instructions
  1. In small bowl, proof the year by mising together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand until foamy.
  2. In large bowl, whisk the salt and flour together.
  3. Make a small well in the center.
  4. Along the side of the bowl, on top of the flour, add 4 tbsp butter, yogurt, and egg white.
  5. Pour the yeast mixture to the well in the flour and mix all ingredients together until you get a smooth dough.
  6. If needed, add the extra 1-2 tbsp warm water. The end result should be a soft dough, slightly sticky to the touch, but not actually sticking to your fingers.
  7. I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.
  8. Divide dough into 3 balls and let them rest in a greased bowl large enough to let them rise.
  9. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then with towel and place in a warm place for 1 hour.
  10. Let rise until the dough doubles in size.
  11. On a slightly floured surface, roll out first ball to form a thin round layer. Brush lightly with melted butter. Then brush/drizzle 1 tbsp honey. Repeat with second ball and place on top of the first.
  12. Roll out third ball, but do not brush with anything (no butter, nor honey) and place on top of layer 2.
  13. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into 4 triangles and then divide each triangle into 3 equal triangles. You'll have 12 triangles.
  14. Drizzle ½ tsp of honey on the wide end and then roll the each triangle into a crescent roll and place on baking paper on a baking pan.
  15. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet and let rise for an hour in a warm place.
  16. Preheat oven to 375F.
  17. Grease a round oven dish or pie plate and arrange the crescent rolls in the pan. The last rolls should sit on top in a pyramid shape.
  18. Brush with egg yolk thinned with a little bit of water then sprinkle with a bit of demerara sugar and place in the preheated oven.
  19. Bake until golden and beautiful for about 40 minutes. (Mine took 45).
  20. Don't be tempted to increase the oven temperature, it will bake perfectly at 375F.

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Comments

  1. says

    Dear Maureen, What a great story. It is a wonderful tribute to your friends Hristo and Emelya.
    The bread looks sooooo good. Beautiful picture.
    Blessings my dear, Catherine xo

  2. says

    I spent the weekend in Scottsdale AZ at a place called The Boulders. The rocks here look a lot like Belogradchik rocks and bread you pictured here. GREG

  3. says

    Oh my gosh, what a wonderful looking bread you have. And I LOVE LOVE your story Maureen!!! My hubby and I went to probably the smallest restaurant we both had ever been to in Venice, and it was one of the most memorable meals we ever had, the least inexpensive, but one of the most delicious. I love stories like yours!!

  4. says

    This is an amazing bread. A bread that can only be discovered and enjoyed while discovering culture. I just need a really good cup of coffee to enjoy this bread.

    My fingers and toes are crossed that you will make that wedding in August. Life is short, just say yes!

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful bread recipe with us.

    Velva

  5. says

    Meeting a Bulgarian online and travelling to meet him? Sounds like a wonderfully elaborate excuse to bake if you ask me! And looking at this, who can blame you? This is so WOW, and even more so with the sugar sprinkled on top and the honey butter. Holy hell do I want some.

    • says

      LOL ruby, when I met him in a business chatroom I never expected that we’d eventually meet. That trip was a real eye opener. It was the first time in my life people who looked just like me were really poor. I saw my first shepherd with a hook and a little flock of sheep. Life’s funny sometimes.

  6. says

    This is amazing to me how this all worked together to a mouth watering ending of desiring to eat the whole thing! You are very patient and I was surprised John said no thanks but not surprised that after that bite he wanted more I wanted to dive right into the screen very very nice job…….

  7. says

    How wonderful that you were able to have the opportunity to meet your internet friend on the other side of the world. Those sorts of meetings don’t happen very often! And I love the look of your crescent rolls. How clever are you! Amazing! They look so golden and delicious and I bet they were great straight from the oven xx

  8. says

    Maureen you are SUCH a passionate and inspiring cook – such a beautiful recipe – I bet they pull apart beautifully and your photos and presentation are sublime.

    I enjoy it all and I want to EAT it!

  9. says

    What an awesome trip to Bulgaria you must have had. Also,pretty cool that you got some face time with your internet friend.
    Regarding your crescents, I cannot see how John wouldn’t have caved in seeing this delicious pastry. They do look like a new addiction for me. Thanks for sharing this winner-yum!

  10. says

    I’m so glad you decided to make the recipe :) And that you liked it too! Thank you!
    I think you’ve made the pitka really beautiful and adding the sugar on top is a great addition! (In fact, it’s something often done for the kozunaks in Bulgaria.)
    And I’m crossing fingers you manage to get to the wedding this summer :)
    Claudie recently posted..Pitka with Honey

  11. says

    I just read Greg’s comment–I have stayed at Boulders, too! :) This post just prompted a conversation with my husband that there is so much of the world yet to see. That picture is beautiful–and so are your pitkas. I can imagine all the slipping around with all that butter and honey. Great job, though, and what a nice tribute to your friends.

    I’ve made butter only once–I’m so impressed that you make your own every week!

    BTW, the plugin is working great! It doesn’t really need me, that’s the best part! I just need to play around with using other colors now. Thanks again for a wonderful plugin! :)

  12. says

    Delightful post! I’ve never made these so I’ve never had exactly the same kitchen experience that you had, but I can relate – I’ve done other things that were equally messy and ridiculous. And they sound wonderful – well worth the trouble they gave you. Thanks so much – really enjoyed this.

  13. says

    I liked your story. lol a slap in the face.
    Learned english too through chat rooms, thats why I love the internet u can just learn anything if u want to!

    Your bulgarian bread looks wonderful Maureen, so appetizing. I am sure your friend would be honored by your bread and I guesse impressed by your skills!

    thanks for sharing, hope u had a nice weekend!

  14. says

    Maureen, what a trip! I love that you’re recreating some of it with a recipe. Isn’t it amazing how you can re-experience your trip again and again with food? So much fun!

    • says

      Mikaela, I’m always harping about food memories. I really believe in it. I eat Borscht and I think of Yuri and his wife who made that for us in Ukraine. I eat pork stuffing in a turkey and think of my grandmother who made it every Thanksgiving growing up. Then there’s my mother’s famous dishes and the things I made for my kids that they loved. I could go on boringly like this for hours. LOL Ahh food memories.

  15. says

    What a wonderful looking bread! I’ve never heard of this bread before but it looks just so delicious! I just made croissants actually! But I’m definitely loving the “share and tear” concept! The honey looks gorgeous too!!

  16. says

    I swear I made a comment, but it didn’t take….blurgh! Seriously this bread is making me drool….I want to ripe a piece off now!!! It looks sooooo fun to make too, love that:-) Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  17. says

    Oh my, Maureen, big, fat crescents filled with honey butter? I love the name Bulgarian Pitka Bread, but may I rename them MANNA? These are definitely on my ‘to make soon’ list..they’re just beyond words. BTW, when is YOUR book coming out? Loved the story..your posts are always so fun to read!
    Lisa recently posted..Raspberry Egg Cream and Bad Boy First Love Part 8

  18. says

    What a wonderful story! I enjoyed it from beginning to end. The crescent roll bread loaf is beautiful and I can only imagine the taste. What a trip that must have been…and to be taken in by the locals is the best way to experience a country. I do hope you get to go back for the wedding.

    • says

      Sarah, that’s the nicest compliment ever. Thanks heaps. I do love to travel and I always try to hook up with someone local. My best memory is finding a carriage driver in Havana who invited us to his home for dinner – complete with Santeria altar. LOL I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

  19. says

    This is absolutely FANTASTIC! And what a fun experience (the trip). I was laughing right along with you reading about your slipping and sliding. It sounds like it was all worth it! Sailor talk and all ;) I would love to try making (and of course, eating) this! I hope you’ll drop by and share it w/ BYOB-Bake Your Own Bread this month – it’s just a stunner.
    Heather @girlichef recently posted..Meyer Lemon Curd Brioche Crescents …inspired by Last Holiday for Food ‘n Flix

  20. says

    Fantastic! Brilliant! Delicious! Extraordinary “simple”! OK, I am running out of words. Perfect! My grandmother use to make something similar to it, and your post brought many good memories. Thanks! Saving this recipe.

  21. Sasha says

    Oh wow, I can’t wait to try these! I think we’ll make it a project with my 3yo – she’ll love “painting” the butter and rolling triangles. I dare say we’ll hav our own “Lucille Ball” moments ;)

  22. says

    Hi Maureen! Drool…. your bread looks super delicious. Even it takes some time to make, it’s so worth it at the end when we see the outcome! I’ll be thrilled if this was in front of me! Very gorgeous bread indeed.

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