Saturday, February 15, 2014


Crispy cheese-filled rolls, perfect with a glass of wine.
I was surprised to find, In my small village grocery store, a package containing hojas de brick, leaves of a ready-made pastry known as brik or brick or bric. Brik is not part of traditional Spanish cooking, but I had watched Spanish chefs use it in cooking demos to create all sorts of fancy pastries with both sweet and savory fillings. I could not resist buying the packet. A little fun in the kitchen, experimenting with a new ingredient.

Brik is a very, very thin pastry, also known as malsouqa in Tunisia, where it comes from. Over the years, it has become naturalized in France and, from there, has made it’s way into Spanish cooking. It is somewhat like phyllo or Turkish yufka, but considerably easier to work with, as it is not so apt to dry out and become brittle. It’s most like Moroccan warqa.

I put out a query about brik on Facebook’s Moroccan Cooking page and Paula Wolfert, author of THE FOOD OF MOROCCO (ECCO, 2012), replied: “Brik pastry is a wee bit thicker than Moroccan warqa. The making of warqa, the paper-thin pastry leaves used in the famous Moroccan briks, pastillas, and other recipes, is always performed by specialists. It’s wonderful to watch these women as they knead a ball of dough then tap it multiple times on a metal pan heated over a charcoal brazier, creating a paper-thin leaf, dab by dab. It’s a time consuming process, difficult to master” (although Paula suggests an easier method).

Brik--as thin as tissue paper.
But, back to my kitchen in Spain, where I have ready-made brik. I opened the package of brik and found 10 circular sheets of pastry, about 12 inches in diameter, each separated by a sheet of waxed paper. Paper thin, they look somewhat like crêpes, with slightly lacy-looking edges. The label says they are made with wheat flour, water, salt, sunflower oil, preservatives, acidulant and emulsifying agent.

I removed five sheets and returned the rest to the plastic package, taping it closed and storing in the fridge. The remaining sheets kept very well until I used them a few days later.

Brik pastry can be fried or baked. The classic Tunisian brik, with a whole (raw) egg sealed inside a triangular packet, is fried. I tried both frying and baking and actually prefer the baked ones. They come out of the oven shatteringly crisp. Cones of brik pastry also can be baked without a filling.

Brik pastry is best served soon after baking, before it loses its snap. But, a day later, I experimented with reheating some of them (90 seconds in a 400ºF-oven). They crisped up quite nicely.

Cut in half, roll reveals filling of cheese and walnuts.

Crispy Cheese Rolls

Crispy Cheese Rolls were the most successful of my experiments. They were easy to assemble. I used toothpicks to secure the rolls, but I don’t think this is necessary. The picks are hard to remove after frying or baking without breaking the pastry. Half of the rolls I fried in olive oil, the remainder I baked. I discovered it was best to place them on the baking sheet with the seam-side up, so that the smooth side browned on the bottom. Some I brushed with oil, some I didn’t. The ones brushed with oil browned a little better, but it’s hardly necessary.

I used cured goat cheese to fill these rolls. Cured Manchego could be used instead. Directions are given for both frying and baking the rolls. They are best served immediately, while still hot. A sweet-tart quince sauce would be a good accompaniment (recipe ). Serve any sauce separately so it doesn't turn the pastry soggy.
(This recipe is adapted from one found in HOLA Cocina, an annual publication by Hola magazine

Makes 10 rolls.

¼ cup chopped walnuts
6 ounces chopped or coarsely grated cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
5 sheets of brik
Olive oil if frying the rolls

In a bowl combine the nuts, cheese, chives and pepper.

Cut pastry sheet in half, add filling.
Fold in the sides and roll up.

Use kitchen scissors to cut one sheet of the brik pastry in half. Place a spoonful of the nut-cheese mixture at the end of one half. Fold in the sides, then roll up the strip of pastry to form a roll. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat, using half a sheet of pastry for each roll.

To bake the rolls, preheat oven to 400ºF. If desired, brush the rolls with oil. Bake the rolls until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

To fry the rolls, heat ½ inch of oil in a skillet. Fry the rolls, a few at a time, turning them to brown both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels.

Crispy pastry cups are filled with spinach, cheese.

Spinach in Pastry Cups

These were problematic. They looked good and tasted great. But, in actuality, the filling soaked through the bottom of the pastry cups, making them difficult to remove from the muffin tin without breaking. Perhaps a double layer of pastry leaves to reinforce the bottoms? (The pastry cups, as pictured, were made with a single quarter-sheet of brik.)

Makes 6.

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing the muffin pan
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
10 ounces spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 egg yolk
3 sheets of brik pastry
¼ cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the pine nuts until golden. Skim them out and reserve. Add the garlic. When it begins to brown, add the spinach. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and vinegar. Cook until spinach is wilted and all the moisture is cooked off. Remove to a small bowl. Stir in the pine nuts and egg yolk.

Brush a 6-muffin tin with olive oil. Cut 1 brik pastry leaf in quarters. Fit one quarter into a muffin cup. Place a second quarter-leaf into the cup. Use remaining pastry, cut in quarters, to line 5 more muffin cups.

Divide the spinach filling between the 6 cups. Sprinkle grated cheese on tops. Bake until the edges of the pastry are golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully remove the pastry cups from the muffin tin. Serve hot.

Aperitif or starter, spinach-filled pastry cups are so good.


  1. Little packages of brick always look so pretty! Re your soggy spinach cups: I do a similar recipe using a double layer of brick (or filo) brushed with butter. I bake them for a few minutes first, then add the filling and bake just a couple of minutes more. You could try that -- the recipe is here:

    1. Veronica: Thanks for your suggestion. Your filo tarts with goats cheese look wonderful! Also, in your recipe for English apple pie, painting the bottom of pastry shells with egg white might keep my brik shells from going soggy.