Yufka is an unleavened flatbread from the Turkish cuisine. The dough is thinner than a tortilla and heartier than phyllo dough. While it is not the same as phyllo dough, it is said to be some form of it.
What is yufka?
Yufka is an essential component of Turkish cuisine and is consumed as a flatbread or used as an ingredient (unbaked) in many of traditional Turkish dishes, like baklava, börek or gözleme.
It is a traditional Turkish flatbread consisting of flour, water, salt, and olive oil. The unleavened dough is typically rolled with a rolling pin called oklava until it develops a paper-thin consistency of about 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 cm) in diameter. While it is paper thin, it is sturdy enough to hold a shawarma filling.
The flatbread version, known as yufka ekmek, is baked on a large inverted pan, called saç for about 2 to 3 minutes, and a pile of them are stacked and stored in a cool place where they can keep for up to 8 months.
What is the origin of yufka?
Yufka originated in Central Asia according to the famous food historian Charles Perry. It was used by nomads of both Central Asia and Anatolia, meaning the origin of yufka cannot be tied to one nation exclusively. Yufka today is most associated with Turkey, but also with countries of Southeast Europe, as well as Austria, although under different names.
Is yufka the same as phyllo?
Yufka is heartier than phyllo dough. It has a substantial bite but is still very flaky. It is rumored to be the original form of phyllo. Yufka is used to make many flatbreads, pastries, and borek, a baked or fried pie found in Turkey and the Middle East.
These flatbreads can become very hard and dry if not served immediately. To make it soft again, it is sprayed with warm water and rested for few minutes in between a kitchen cloth and then served. The shelf life of these flatbread are quite long as they are quite dry in texture. They can be kept sealed in tightly inside an air proof wrap.
The working surface must be floured well at all times while rolling the dough as that will prevent it from sticking to the surface. If a saç is not available, yufka can be baked in a large, non-stick pan. For a variation of the basic dough, it is possible to add eggs, oil and even yeast.
For the bread version of yufka, called yufka ekmek, the raw dough is roasted for about one minute on each side over a saç until it gets some color. Yufka ekmek is used as a side dish to absorb meat, vegetables and sauces and is also used as the wrap for a dürüm.
The yufkacı (bakers) roll the dough so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. Flour, water and salt are combined to make a sticky dough that needs to sit for a few hours before further processing. The dough is divided to small pieces of about 50 grams. Each piece of dough is rolled with a lot of flour and with the help of a special rolling pin. The yufkacı will use a long wooden rod called oklava that looks like a broomstick, to roll out the dough as thinly as possible. Several layers can be rolled together at once on the rod because of the copious amounts of flour the yufkacı uses to prevent the dough from sticking together. These layers are rolled together with pressure until the dough is extremely thin. During baking, the bread is turned over once to brown the other side.
Today, yufka can be found in Turkish supermarkets. The shrink-wrapped layers are a bit drier than freshly made yufka. Therefore the store-bought layers are more fragile and break easily when you handle them. The package can be stored, unopened, for months. In Turkey, fresh günlük yufka dough can be purchased in every supermarket or at stores that solely sell yufka, called yufkacı.
When ready to eat, yufka needs to be sprinkled with warm water and covered with a cotton cloth for 10 to 12 minutes before it is ready for consumption.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup lukewarm water (more or less), at 97 F / 36°C
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Flour (for the work surface)
- Olive oil (for the resting and for the hot plate)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt.
- Dig a well in the center and pour in the water and oil.
- Knead until getting a sticky dough.
- On a well floured work surface, knead the dough for 3 minutes, adding flour or water if necessary, until the dough is no longer sticky. It should be smooth and more importantly, elastic.
- Transfer the dough to a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and turn it over to coat the entire surface.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours.
- On a floured work surface, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll them up.
- Cover the balls of dough with a cloth and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- On a floured work surface, using a smooth, lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into a very thin circle about 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter, sprinkling with flour if necessary to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Place each disc of dough in a pile between sheets of parchment paper. Heat a non-stick hot plate or griddle about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter over high heat. Lightly oil the hot plate.
- Peel a disc of dough from the parchment paper and place it on the hot plate, carefully using the fingertips to place it flat, if necessary.
- Cook over medium heat until lightly browned and puffy in places for about 2 minutes.
- Using a spatula, turn over and cook until the other side is lightly browned in places, for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer to a large dish.
- Repeat the operation with all the remaining discs of dough, stacking the baked flatbreads so that they stay warm.