For Christmas, Bulgarians prepare banitsa with lucky charms in it (like coins) or with happy wishes written on small pieces of paper or wrapped around dogwood tree branches. The dogwood branches are significant because they are a symbol of health and longevity in the Bulgarian tradition.
“The traditional Bulgarian banitsa is one of the most anticipated dishes on the holiday table as the whole family—especially children—are curious what luck they will get from it. The most popular filling of the dish is the Bulgarian cheese, but it goes well also with sweet fillings such as apples or pumpkins. Enjoy the holiday season with all its culinary delights and family spirit!”
– TIHOMIR STOYTCHEV, AMBASSADOR OF BULGARIA
🇧🇬 Bulgaria: Banitsa
- 1 lb Phyllo dough pastry sheets
- 14 oz Plain whole milk yogurt
- 6 Eggs
- ½ Cups Melted butter
- 1 lb Crumbled white brine cheese
- Dogwood tree branches for wishes
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees, brush melted butter all over bottom and sides of a 10-inch spring form pan.
- Mix eggs, cheese and yogurt in a bowl, combine and stir ingredients well.
- Lay 2 sheets of phyllo dough down in the buttered pan and brush with melted butter.
- Cover the sheets with a thin layer of the egg, cheese, and yogurt mixture and top with 2 more sheets of phyllo dough.
- Repeat until all of the mixture is done, then top with 2 final sheets of phyllo dough. Brush on the remaining butter.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden.
- Once the banitsa is done, spray it with some water and cover it with a towel to let it cool down. Covering it lets the steam to soften the phyllo dough pastry sheets.
- On small pieces of paper, write New Year’s wishes such as health, love, and happiness. They can be placed either inside or on top of the pastry. Traditionally, the small pieces of paper are wrapped in protective foil and placed within the layers of the banitsa. (You may also roll them on dogwood tree branches and place them randomly on top of the pastry). Every slice served should go with a good luck wish.