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Bulemas, A Sephardic Cheese Pastry

October 25th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized


Unbaked Bulemas

The finished Product

Bulemas are coils of dough and filling, first rolled like a jellyroll, then looped into a coil. The most common fillings are spinach and cheese which is my favorite, or cooked eggplant and cheese.  Bulemas are part of the triumvirate of Sephardic cheese pastries served after synagogue on Saturday. The other members of the trio are borekas and boyos.  These pastries were served as part of a traditional dairy lunch accompanied by Greek salad, fried or cooked fish with lemon sauce, frittata, hard boiled eggs that had been cooked all night (huevos haminados), and melon for desert.

According to Gil Marks in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food The Origin of Bulemas is Spain.  I looked up the word on google translator and found nothing.   Marks states:

The Ladino fritter (birmuelo) gave rise to an array of pastries including a spiral bun known as a bulema.  In the Ottoman Empire the Sephardim combined their bun with the Turkish Borek into a bulema.  In Greece they were sometimes called rodanchas (rose as in Isle of Rhodes) possibly because they resemble architectural rosettes.  Whatever the name the formation entails spreading the filling on a thin sheet of dough, rolling it out jelly roll style into a long tube, then coiling the tube into a chubby spiral.  Traditional bulemas use yeast dough however many substitute phyllo.  Unlike borekas so popular in Israel bulemas remain largely obscure beyond the Sephardic communities. According to Sephardic lore the spiral symbolizes the life cycle and ascent to Gan Eden.

Bulemas freeze and reheat very well.


Spinach and cheese filling

6 packages washed baby spinach chopped (do not chop fine)

4-8.8 ounces (35-36 oz total) Tnuva feta cheese crumbled  (4 containers)

6 cups Parmagiano Reggiano grated


5 cups warm water

3 cakes yeast or 6 packages dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons salt

14 cups high gluten flour or equal to 5 lbs minus one cup

1-cup olive oil

Additional 1-1/2 cups grated Parmaggiano Reggiano for top and ½-¾ cup olive oil for dough to rest in)

Directions Dough: Proof yeast in warm water with sugar. When the yeast is foaming (about 8 minutes) add the ½ cup oil.   By hand add the flour and first mix and then knead until an elastic dough forms (at least 5 minutes) If using the food processor add half the flour, process until smooth, then add the other half the flour and process for about 60 seconds until the dough is in a ball, soft, but not sticky.  Divide dough in 6 pieces and place in a large aluminum tin with olive oil in the bottom. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft free area about 2 hours.

Directions Filling:

Chop spinach about 1/-3/4 inch pieces.  Do not chop fine as more juice will be created thus making bulema soggy with spinach escaping out sides. Combine crumbled feta and grated cheese into spinach.  Mix thoroughly wearing gloves.

Directions Assembly:

After dough rises, form approximately 8 balls per piece (48 total) and roll out on a clean counter in a long thin rectangle without holes (about 3×10) inches). Spread a generous amount of filling in center of rectangle and roll into long cylinder shape. Pinch the ends for a tight seal, and then coil into nest. This amount of filling is perfect for this amount of dough. Place coils on parchment or silicone lined baking sheets (12 Per Sheet). Sprinkle the top of the coils with freshly grated Parmagiano cheese or finely grated Parmesan ready made from a jar. Let ready made Bulemas rest for 45 minutes. Bake at 375 until golden and crispy.  Some spinach does escape-when cool you can try to return any escaped spinach inside coil.  Cool on a cooling rack to maintain crispness.  Store in airtight container in freezer after cooled and reheat in a single layer.  Best eaten warm.  The house smell terrific when baking so be sure to count on eating some!

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