The term muğabbana comes from the Arabic word ğban, which means “cheese,” and from which the term almojabana (cheese buns) derives. But this “Recipe for oven-baked cheese pie” from the Kitāb al-tabīh is more similar to an empanada, as it has the shape of a small stuffed slipper. The recipe title calls it “Toledan,” and we know that the Spanish city of Toledo had a significant Jewish community in the late Middle Ages. This dish took many shapes, and similar ones were prepared by the Sephardim of Turkey and of the Ottoman Empire.
The original recipe tells us only to make the dough, spread it, and place just the right amount of crushed cheese in the middle, then fold the edges of the dough to completely cover the cheese. I will give a few more directions here.
Ingredients for Muğabbana - Cheese Pies
For the Dough:
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups (300 grams) flour
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ⅓ cup (75 grams) butter or margarine, room temperature
For the Filling:
- 1 cup (150 grams) feta cheese (the original calls for beyaz peynir cheese, so use that if you can find it)
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 onion chopped (optional)
- 1 garlic clove chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup (50 grams) olive oil (optional)
- 1 egg beaten, for brushing before baking
- Anise seeds to sprinkle on top
Prepare the Dough:
1. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead by hand for 5 minutes. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment on low speed. The dough should be smooth and a bit hard. Cover and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the Filling:
2. For the stuffing, crumble the cheese and add the other ingredients into a bowl. Make sure not to overmix.
3. Preheat oven to 375F (190C) degrees.
Assemble and Cook:
4. Dust a work surface with flour. Roll out the dough quite thickly to about ⅛-inch (3 mm) and cut into circles with a cookie cutter, or glass, roughly the size of a fist.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and shape the muğabbana directly onto it. In the lower part of each circle, put a spoonful of cheese stuffing. Very lightly moisten the rim with water. Gently close by folding down the upper part. Press all around the dough with the teeth of a fork to seal. Make a small hole in the highest part of the muğabbana. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with anise seeds.
6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.