On a recent holiday to Istria, Croatia (a 2 ½ hour drive from the Venice airport) we discovered that many bakeries feature a Baltic pastry called burek. Some versions are filled with cooked meat, but the cheese pastries, shaped like a snail and with phyllo as the pastry base, were most delectable.
While the actual type of cheese was difficult to discern (and I ate many as “research”) I’ve found that using pressed dry cottage cheese at home works very well and has a similar texture.
Makes 24 pastries.
For the dough, measure the flour and salt into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the water and mix, starting on low speed and then increasing to medium-low, continue to mix for a minute before adding the butter, then mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes more. Wrap the dough in plastic and set on the counter to rest for 2 hours (or the dough can be made and chilled overnight, but let sit on the counter to warm to room temperature).
For the filling, beat the cottage cheese to break it down a little (it will not be creamy) and stir in the eggs, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Sprinkle your hands and work surface with a good dusting of cornstarch. Unwrap the dough and coat it with cornstarch to prevent sticking. Slowly start stretching the dough out and dusting with cornstarch when needed (this makes the dough handle very well and feel silky). Keep stretching the dough out to a thin sheet, so thin you could read this recipe through it, and don’t worry if there is a small hole or two. Trim the edges of the dough (this can be re-rolled, after resting it) and cut the pastry into 4 or 8 square sheets.
Brush the entire surface of the pastry squares with butter and sprinkle lightly with breadcrumbs. Spoon the cheese filling in a small (1-inch/2.5 cm) line along one side of each square and roll up, stretching out the pastry and filling as you go. Spiral the pastry up and tuck under the end piece. Place the pastries onto the baking tray, brush with eggwash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the bureks for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is a rich golden brown. Let the pastries cool for 15 minutes before enjoying, or cool to room temperature.