The distinct Laz people have lived along the eastern Black Sea coast for centuries, and they naturally have their own take Turkish dishes. Let’s see where the origins of the sweet, pudding börek lie.
What is Galaktoboureko (Laz Böreği)?
Laz böreği usually consists of five layers of “yufka” with a kind of pudding called “muhallebi” on top, which is then covered by five layers of “yufka”. After baking they get doused in syrup before serving. The number of layers and how many are on the top and bottom vary depending on the pastry shop, family and region.Jump to Recipe
The Laz have a legend attached to their börek that says one day, a woman was furious with her mother-in-law as she was cooking up some syrup and wanting to pour it over her. She changed her mind and poured the syrup over her mother-in-law’s börek instead, thus creating a sweet börek (1).
While the origins of this legend are unknown, the Laz have been around for quite a long while and now mostly live in Rize and Artvin. Their history in the region, however, can be traced back as far as the 13th century BC (2). When nomadic Turks came into the region through what is now Azerbaijan, it was only natural that food transferred and mixed between different peoples. The first mention of börek is by a Turkic physician’s dietary manual for the emperor of China in 1330 (3). While this version was savory and filled with mutton, sheep’s fat, leeks and spices, it is not a stretch to fill the laboriously made “yufka” with the Ottomans’ most beloved “muhallebi” (4).
The district of Hopa in Artvin in particular has been known for its Laz böreği for at least two centuries, prompting an application to the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office in 2019. Research by the Hopa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which filed the application, describes that that this börek wasn’t made for everyday meals, but rather for weddings and other celebrations.
Due to the nature of the Ottoman Empire, this kind of börek was adopted by many of the different people in the empire, so it is no surprise that Greeks made their own version called “galaktoboureko”, or milk börek.
The search for the earliest recipe is problematic as the master pastry chefs in the Topkapı Palace kitchens usually listed ingredients but sadly not all recipes include instructions. Laz böreği could be the “şeker böreği” in the long list of desserts served in the Ottoman palace in the 16th century (4).
There are a few theories for the origins of the word börek and where it comes from. One claims that the first börek is said to have been made by the order and recipe of a pre-Ottoman chieftain by the name of Buğra Bey, with büğrek supposedly meaning belonging to Buğra Bey.
The most likely theory is that the word comes from the Turkish verb “bürmek”, which means to roll or twist (5). The Greek “boureki” and “bourekaki” have the same origins .
Laz, of course, is the name of the people.
Laz böreği – the perfect mix of flaky pastry and pudding
For the dough
- 100 gr yogurt
- 90 ml vegetable oil
- 100 ml water
- 1 pinch of salt
- ½ package baking powder / 5 gr
- 2 eggs
- 550 gr flour
For the muhallebi
- 1.2 liters milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tbps flour
- 1 tbps starch
- Zest of half a lemon
For the syrup
- 300 gr sugar
- 360 ml water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Starch to dust the surfaces
- 90 gr butter for the layering of the yufka
- 90 gr vegetable oil for the layering of the yufka
- Start with the syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water and bring it to a boil. Add the lemon juice and let it simmer for 5 minutes before turning off the heat. Set the syrup aside and let it cool.
- For the dough, add the yogurt, vegetable oil, water, salt, baking powder and eggs into a bowl and mix it thoroughly. Gradually add the flour and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.
- Dust your work surface with starch and separate the dough into 18 equal pieces. Let them rest.
- Meanwhile, prepare the “muhallebi”. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, starch, flour and zest to 200 ml of the milk and mix it until there are no clumps left. Bring the remaining milk to a boil and add the prepared mixture and sugar, stirring it constantly to prevent it from sticking to the pot. When the pudding starts to thicken, turn off the heat and let the pudding cool.
- Now roll out the pieces of dough dusted with starch as thinly as possible on a surface dusted with starch. Oil up a baking tin and place in the first piece of yufka, allowing it to go over the edges. Melt the additional butter, mix it with the vegetable oil and brush it on the yufka.
- Proceed by adding a total of 17 layers of yufka, every time washing it with the butter and oil mixture. Finally add the pudding and fold the corners of the first yufka onto the top. Roll out the last layer of yufka and cover. Use the remaining butter and oil mixture to wash the top Cut the börek as you like and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- After removing the börek from the oven, let it cool off for 5 minutes and then pour over the. Serve and enjoy!
Bibliography(1) Nuray Aykanat, M. Öcal Oğuz and Ayşenur Karagöz, “Kentler ve İmgesel Yemekler 2,” 2006.
(2) Andrew Andersen, “History of Ancient Caucasus”
(3) E.N. Anderson, Paul D. Buell and Charles Perry, “A Soup for the Qan: Chinese Dietary Medicine of the Mongol Era”, in “Yinshan Zhengyao” by Hu Sihui, 2000.
(4) Marianna Yerasimos, “500 Yıllık Osmanlı Mutfağı”, 2002.
(5) Andreas Tietze, Tarihi ve Etimolojik Türkiye Türkçesi Lugatı, 2002.