Balkan-Style Brioche Stuffed with Potato and Chilli

Poğaça

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    4

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Anatolia

By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

The Turkish word poğaça (pronounced ‘poe-uchah’) comes from the same root as the Italian word focaccia: the Latin panis focacius, which means bread cooked in the hearth. That suggests it must have been a favourite of the Romans during their time in Constantinople. In the mid-seventeenth century, the travel writer Evliya Çelebi reported in his memoir Seyahatname (Tales of the Journey) that a sweet version of poğaça had been popular in the sultan’s palace 100 years earlier but was introduced as street food by Balkan immigrants, who would heap hot ashes over the dough, let it bake, then scrape the bread clean and serve it with cheese or lamb mince. (The description sounds rather like damper, a favourite of Australian bushies in the nineteenth century.)

My version of this recipe could not have been eaten by the Emperor Constantine, since potatoes only reached Turkey from South America in the eighteenth century. I think poğaça tastes even better when the mash melts into the dough.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 70 g ( oz) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 125 g ( oz/½ cup) plain yoğurt
  • 300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 boiling potatoes (such as desiree)
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for boiling the potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 1 heaped tablespoon shredded kaşar (or mozzarella)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Method

Mix the yeast and the sugar in a bowl with 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles.

Whisk the butter, egg and yoğurt together in a bowl. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, pour in the yeast mixture and stir through. Add the yoğurt mixture and knead vigorously for 10 minutes to make a soft, stretchy dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for 2 hours to expand.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).

Peel and quarter the potatoes, then place in a large saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then drain well. Add half the salt, the pepper, chilli flakes and cheese, and roughly mash.

Add the remaining salt to the rested dough and knead to combine. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll into balls. Place one ball of dough on the work surface and, with floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a round about 10 cm (4 in) wide and 1–2 cm (about ½ in) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough. Add 1 tablespoon of the mashed potato mixture in the middle of each round. Fold over one side to create a half moon shape. Press lightly around the edges to seal.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and brush with vegetable oil. Arrange the poğaças on the tray. Brush the pastry with oil and the tops with egg yolk, and sprinkle on the seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm, two per person.