Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Make Authentic Warka Pastry Leaves (Filo Pastry/Phyllo Pastry) at Home Easily


What is Moroccan Warqa Pastry Leaves?

Warqa Pastry Leaves (or Ouarka, warkha, warka) (Filo or phyllo, Greek: "leaf") - Filo's likely originated in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Warqa is a union of Berber cooking and Arab influences drawn from its Persian heritage. Via the Silk Road, the Persians had learned the art of making thin pastry from the Chinese.

Moroccan warqa (called malsouqa in Tunisia and dioul in Algeria) is made precisely the same way as Chinese spring roll skins. In Canton, this type of pastry is called chun gun: it should not be confused with the thicker egg roll skin. Though many people confuse this type of pastry with Greek phyllo dough and Hungarian strudel leaves. The warqa- spring roll skin type is found only in China and North Africa.

Warqa is used for making pastries such as baklava and börek in Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.  Baklava is probably the earliest dish using filo, and was documented as early as the 13th century.

Warqa is recognized by a variety of names in ethnic and regional cuisines. Among them are:

Gollash in Egyptian cuisine

Jufka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia for the dough, while leaves are called kore

Kori za banitsa in Bulgaria for the dough, with pastries made from it generically known as banitsa 

Petë in Albanian cuisine, and pies made out of it pite or byrek

Yufka in Turkish cuisine; there are different sorts of yufka for börek or baklava

Lumpia Wrapper in Filipino cuisine, used in making turon, lumpia and other delicacies.

How to Easily Make 40 Pieces eight-inch Warqa Leaves


Warqa is a little tricky to make, and most Moroccans buy fresh sheets in the market or commercial brands in stores… filo pastry.

The fine, paper-thin pastry sheets used for savory stuffed pastries and layered desserts are originally made by smearing a fine coating of damp, sticky, elastic dough across a wide, hot griddle before peeling it off after 15 seconds or so in a single, fluid motion.

1) It is best to do the kneading on the floor, with a big, shallow washbasin in front of you (henceforth to be referred to as the gsaa) and a bowl of warm, lightly salted water at your side. Dump 4 cups hard-wheat flour (or semolina, bread, or strudel flour, or a mixture of semolina and all-purpose flour) into the gsaa. Work in the warm water, enough to make a softish bread dough. Knead and fold the dough onto itself, at the same time adding water to the gsaa, spreading the dough over the water and then punching down with your fists, making squishy noises as the water is worked in. (The dough will begin to look like a sponge.) Pick the dough up, turn it over, and rub it with the heel of the hand, as you do a fraisage in French pastry.

2) Keeping your hands wet, beat the dough for 1 or 2 minutes against the gsaa, up and down, until it begins to perform like a Yo-yo. Then break off a bit of dough, dip it in the water, fold it back into the remaining mass, and then punch down and knead again. 

3) Repeat this step three or four times during the next 5 to 10 minutes, building elasticity by lifting the dough with the sway of the hand until you are lifting it about 12 inches above the gsaa. Then let the dough “rest” a few hours in a warm place, under a film of 2 tablespoons warm water and a towel. After a 3-hour “rest” you can start to make warqa, or you can refrigerate the dough and make warqa the next day.

4) In Morocco, charcoal is heated in a brazier (kanoun) and then covered with a flat pan called a tobsil del warqa, which has an inner lining of copper and a top surface of tin. To duplicate this in an American kitchen, boil water in a shallow, straight-sided pan covered with a large, upside-down cake pan or large, smooth-bottomed skillet.

5) Wrap a nugget of sweet butter in cheesecloth and set it next to the pan. Rub the tobsil with butter and immediately wipe it off with a clean towel.

6) Try out the dough: wet your hands and then, twisting with the wrist as you would twist a baton, twist off a small amount of dough about the size of an apricot. Start flipping this piece in your palm, moving your whole arm back and forth until the dough becomes a sphere that bounces away from your hand and then immediately springs back. (If the dough does not become a ball it is not yet ready; replace the small piece of dough, wait 10 or 15 minutes, and then try again.)

7) Turn your palm upside down, still moving it gently, and begin, gently, to tap the dough sphere against the hot tobsil, about 1-1/2inches from the edge. Make several soft, slow taps to form a large circle of pastry. (Each time the dough touches the hot pan it should leave a thin, circular film of pastry.) Tap eight or nine times, so as to make a pastry leaf, and then tap against any places where there are holes and where the separate dabs have not joined well.

8) Allow the pastry leaf to dry slightly around its edges and then carefully lift it up, picking at the edges with your fingernails to loosen it from the pan. You will be able to peel it off after lifting approximately one-third of the leaf. If you are working alone, you may have trouble because your hands will be occupied, one keeping the tobsil steady and the other holding onto the sphere of dough, which should be kept in motion. In this case set the sphere down, quickly dip your hand in water, and then peel off the leaf.

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Quick Tips on Making Warqa Pastry Leaves

1) Your first five or six leaves will probably not succeed. Do not give up.

2) It is important to remember that, when you tap the tobsil with the dough, the dough does not really leave your hand; because of the very gentle downward motion of your hand the spherical mass stretches to touch the pan and then snaps back into your inverted palm. If you do this properly, not too fast, you will never lose control of the dough.

3) If you use a spatula to peel off the pastry, the leaf will tear.

4) Because the first five or six leaves will not work out, you need a method for scraping off your mistakes. If the pastry sticks to the pan rub it with a little butter; then rub off the failed leaf with a paper towel.

5) As you accumulate leaves, set them on top of one another and cover them with a clean towel. Do not let them dry out. They will keep 1 or 2 days wrapped in foil. If any of your leaves have thick spots, turn these over and let them dry for half a minute or so before piling them on top of the rest.

6) If the tobsil is too hot, the warqa leaves will stick to the pan, and you may not be able to get your nails under their edges to peel them off.

7) If the dough skims the pan, you haven’t properly wiped off the butter.

8) Every time you pick up the warqa dough, wet your hands. But do not add any water to the dough itself.

9) A warqa leaf is cooked on only one side, unless it is excessively thick. A finished leaf should be slightly crisp.

10) Making warqa is a labor of love. It may take you as long as 3 hours to make 40 leaves. If you are not up to this much effort, make your bastela with Strudel or phyllo dough—you will still obtain a good result.

Related Recipe: What's NEW in Oprah Winfrey's Favorite Indian Food Recipe?

Quick Tips on Using Warqa

When using warqa to make pastries, the thin layers are made by first rolling out the sheets of dough to the final thickness, then brushing them with olive oil, or melted butter for some desserts, and stacking them. This contrasts with puff pastry and croissant doughs, where the layers are stacked into a thick layer of dough, then folded and rolled out multiple times to produce a laminated dough containing thin layers of dough and fat. 

Warqa or filo can be used in many ways: layered, folded, rolled, or ruffled, with various fillings. Notable pastries made with warqa include:

M'Hanncha - (often called as Snake Cake or Snake Shape Pastry) is an authentic Moroccan sweet delicious dessert consisting of rolled phyllo pastry filled with delightful orange-almond paste filling.

Baklava - An Ottoman dessert with layers of filo with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. 

Börek - A savory filo pie originally from the Ottoman Empire.

Bougatsa - A type of Greek breakfast pastry.

Kasseropita - A Greek pie made from filo and kasseri cheese.

Galaktoboureko - A Greek dessert consisting of filo and semolina custard.

Spanakopita - A Greek spinach pie.

Tiropita - A Greek dish similar to Börek, filled with a cheese-egg mixture.

Banitsa - A Bulgarian dish consisting of eggs, cheese and filo baked in the oven.

Bülbül yuvasi - A Turkish dessert with pistachios and syrup.

Bundevara - A Serbian sweet pie filled with pumpkin.

Gibanica - A Serbian dish made from filo, white cheese, and eggs.

Pastizz - A savory pastry from Malta filled with ricotta or mushy peas.

Zelnik - A savory pie from the Balkans.


Carole Bloom. 1995. The International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries, and Confections: A Comprehensive Guide With More Than 800 Definitions and 86 Classic Recipes, 1st edition. Hearst Books. ISBN-10: 0688127258

Charles Perry. 1994. The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava, in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper). Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 1-86064-603-4

Fatema Hal, Jean-Francois Hamon, Bruno Barbey. 2007. Authentic Recipes from Morocco -(Authentic Recipes Series). Periplus Editions (HK) ltd. ISBN-10: 9780794603250. ASIN: 0794603254

Marti Sousanis. 1983. The Art of Filo: International Entrees, Appetizers and Desserts Wrapped in Flaky Pastry. Aris Books. ISBN-10: 0943186056

Paula Wolfert. 1987. Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. Ecco Books ISBN-10: 0060913967

Thomas Katona and Christie Katona. 1996. The Best 50 Phyllo Recipes (Best 50). Bristol Publishing Enterprises Inc. ISBN-10: 1558671439

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Watch Related Videos:

1) Warka - Homemade Moroccan Phyllo Dough Recipe - CookingWithAlia - Episode 320- video

2) Homemade Phyllo Pastry. How to Make Perfect Filo (Fillo, Phyllo) Pastry the Easy Way!!! - video

3) Warka (Brick Pastry) Recipe- How to Easily Make Homemade Authentic Warka Pastry Leaf - video

1 comment:

  1. So what should be the exact temperature of the pan? If there is simmering water underneath, that’s much cooler than charcoal


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