Bulgarian cuisine, just like the other cuisines of the Balkans, is a simple cuisine based on healthy ingredients such as vegetables, yogurt and cheese. Bulgarian recipes are simple and often use fresh produces, as well as strong spices such as hot pepper, black pepper and paprika.
Bread in Bulgaria
Moreover, throughout Bulgaria, you can witness this with many quotations and proverbs that praise bread. For example: “If you have bread, you have everything” or “No one is bigger than bread.”
What is mesenitza?
Mesenitza is simply a bread stuffed with cheese, this famous sirenje (or sirene) that is used in a multitude of Bulgarian recipes and that can easily be replaced with Greek feta. This bread is also called tutmanik and it is a very popular bread in Bulgaria. Every region, every village and even every family may have different recipes and even names for it.
How to make mesenitza?
The basic ingredients are flour, yeast, oil, milk, butter, eggs, famous Bulgarian yogurt and sirenje. The final shape and recipe vary, but the basic idea remains the same: roll the dough thinly and stuff it before closing it in a cylinder shape or small roll and then all shapes of large round loaves are allowed.
According to various sources, the original mesenitza was prepared based on a mixture of corn and wheat flours, and some even added rye flour. A lot of spice and cheese were added. This dough was soft or semi liquid. The mixture was poured into a baking dish, then baked. People ate it hot accompanied by yogurt or milk.
The different versions of mesenitza
Depending on the region of Bulgaria, there are still recipes with corn flour. But the most traditional recipe is the one we are presenting. There are also family recipes of mesenitza as for example, with fried ground or chopped pork that is mixed with sirene.
Some people even make a sweet version for which they combine sirene to fruit jam, marmalade or jelly. But it is rare and more popular in the northern regions of Bulgaria or with Bulgarians living in Romania, Moldova, Russia or Ukraine.
I prepared this mesenitza for Alexander and Ruben, my two sons, as we had their friends over that night. We enjoyed it as an appetizer and fresh out of the oven. Everyone loved it! But everyone also loved that incredible smell emanating from the kitchen!
- 1½ lb flour (more or less), sifted
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 eggs , beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- About 1 cup milk , lukewarm
- 1 egg
- 8 tablespoons butter , soft
- 4 oz. Bulgarian yogurt , beaten
- 13 oz. sirene (or feta), crumbled
- 1 egg yolk , beaten with 1 tablespoon of cold milk
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup (100ml) water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Mix all ingredients of the dough except the salt and incorporate milk slowly.
- Form a dough and finally incorporate the salt. Knead the dough for 5 minutes with a stand mixer (at medium speed) or 10 minutes (by hand). Cover the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place, away from drafts.
- Beat the egg and mix with yogurt and sirene.
Divide the dough into several balls of equal weight. Roll each ball to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (1cm).
- Smear butter and filling on the surface of each piece of dough. Roll the dough onto itself to obtain a cylinder.
- Shape each cylinder into a snail-shaped roll and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Place all the snail-shaped rolls next to each other by spacing them slightly to form a large bun. As they expand during baking, all the snails will form one large bread. Let rise again for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat convection oven to 350F/180C.
- Coat the bread with the egg yolk and milk mixture. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the bread is golden.