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.”
We 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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
- 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
- In small bowl, proof the year by mising together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand until foamy.
- In large bowl, whisk the salt and flour together.
- Make a small well in the center.
- Along the side of the bowl, on top of the flour, add 4 tbsp butter, yogurt, and egg white.
- Pour the yeast mixture to the well in the flour and mix all ingredients together until you get a smooth dough.
- 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.
- I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.
- Divide dough into 3 balls and let them rest in a greased bowl large enough to let them rise.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then with towel and place in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Let rise until the dough doubles in size.
- 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.
- Roll out third ball, but do not brush with anything (no butter, nor honey) and place on top of layer 2.
- Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into 4 triangles and then divide each triangle into 3 equal triangles. You’ll have 12 triangles.
- 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.
- Place on parchment paper on baking sheet and let rise for an hour in a warm place.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake until golden and beautiful for about 40 minutes. (Mine took 45).
- Don’t be tempted to increase the oven temperature, it will bake perfectly at 375F.