“The recipe for bichak is passed down from mother to daughter.” Liat Segal Epstein says that her grandmother’s family has lived in the Bukharan neighborhood in Jerusalem for six generations. “We don’t make a lot of them – it’s not a dish that belongs to a particular holiday or Shabbat – bichak are considered a special dish for entertaining. The handwork on each of the small pockets is a testament to the great esteem one has for their guest.” It is said that when Liat’s grandfather arrived in Jerusalem early in his life to look for a Jewish bride from the community, her grandmother’s family presented him with a bichak as usual. “With the first bite, Grandpa felt a connection to the family and the match was made.” Bichak freezes extremely well and is also pareve (and vegan, if you nix the egg wash), so it is suitable as an appetizer before a meat or dairy meal.
Ingredients for Bichak - Pumpkin Dumplings
For the filling:
- 1.1 lbs (500 grams) pumpkin Peeled and cut into large cubes
- 1.1 lbs (500 grams) onions Peeled and cut into quarters
- ½-¾ cup (100-150 ml) canola oil
- 8-10 tablespoons (95-120 grams) Sugar
For the dough:
- 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) flour
- 1 ¾ tablespoons (15 grams) Dry yeast
- 1-2 tablespoons (12-25 grams) Sugar
- 3 cups Pumpkin liquid (explained below)
- 1½ teaspoons Salt
For brushing and garnish (optional):
- 1 egg beaten with a little water or about 1/2 cup pumpkin liquid
- Sesame seeds
Prepare the filling (the day before baking):
1. Pulse pumpkin and onion together in a food processor - make sure they don't turn into a puree but are finely chopped.
2. Heat oil in a wide pot, add the onion and pumpkin and cook for about an hour on a low flame until partially softened, stirring occasionally.
3. Add sugar and continue to cook for another half hour over the lowest heat setting, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer the cooled mixture to a strainer placed over a bowl, cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator for 12 hours, during which the mixture will shed a good deal of liquid that will be used to prepare the dough.
Prepare the dough:
4. Put flour, dry yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix to combine at low speed.
5. Add the drained pumpkin liquid (up to three cups, no more, if you do not have enough, make three cups with warm water) and mix at low-medium speed for about 2 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add a little warm water. Add salt and knead for another 4 minutes to obtain a uniform, soft and pliable dough. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave to rise for about an hour or until the dough almost doubles in volume.
Fill and bake:
6. Heat the oven to 355F (180C) degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into three equal parts and make a ball out of it. Cover the balls with a towel (so that it will not dry out).
7. Roll the first ball of dough into a sheet about ¼-inch (½ cm) thick and cut out rounds with a diameter of 2⅓"-2¾" (6-7 cm). Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling on each round and close into a triangle (similar to a Hamantash).
8. Place the pastries on the sheet seam-side down and cover with a towel. Roll out and fill the remaining two balls of dough in the same way.
9. If desired, brush the pastries with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastries are browned.
In December 2021, we launched the first festival of its kind in the country, which aims to revive home baked goods that are disappearing from the landscape to ensure that they will remain with us for many years to come. We started by researching and locating nine bakers from different ethnicities who prepare traditional pastries that are now extinct, we connected them to 9 selected bakeries from around the country and launched the festival of lost pastries: ten days in which each bakery prepared one pastry and offered it for sale.
About the bakery:
Confectioner Tal Itkin from Pie Project Patisserie chose this pastry “because it contains unconventional flavors and techniques, and this is what I love and look for in baking – the use of pumpkin juice, for example, is unfamiliar to me from classic pastry recipes. It has a wisdom from the past, from an era when people had great respect for raw materials and avoided waste – values that we need to remember,” she says. “As a member of a family that cooks everything from everything, (without attachment to a particular sectarian food) I have always been fascinated by traditions. It was very exciting and educational for me. Every bite, every preparation opened a window for me to a culture that is disappearing, to a locality that is being abandoned, to values that have been preserved for hundreds of years and in my eyes this is the most romantic thing there is.”