Last week my sister Barbara was visiting from the East Coast, with her daughter and granddaughter. Along with Nona that made 4 generations all together. We had a lot of fun reminiscing and talking about passing the culinary torch down to generation number three. One of the fondest memories in our family is all of the wonderful things Nona baked for Jewish holidays and every week Shabbat dinner and lunch. My mother and grandmother truly had ‘blessed hands’ or as they say in Ladino ‘bendicias manos’. The title of ‘bendicias manos’ embodies a certain amount of skill, patience, artistic ability, and devotion to the celebration of Jewish holidays and family in the person with this attribute.
Next week the holiday of Shavuot begins. Since dairy food is traditionally served for the celebration meal, Nona always made these little goodies along with the usual desayuno or Sephardic breakfast/brunch pastry. A sister to potato and cheese borekas, only open faced, the filling is a combination of rice and cheese. I made them and froze them with success. They were easily reheated to their oven fresh state, uncovered in a 300° oven.
For the dough:
4 and 1/3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup ice water
¾ cup vegetable oil (I prefer safflower)
For the filling:
1 cup sushi rice or Turkish Baldo rice (these kinds of rice are very sticky but you can use just regular long grain)
1 and 3/4 cups of water
1 cup grated Parmesano Reggiano
8 ounces Feta cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or Kashkaval
1 beaten egg
To make the filling, place the rice and water in a saucepan. Bring the rice and water to a boil; turn down the heat to low, and cover the rice until it is steamed through. While the rice is cooking, grate the cheddar and Parmesano. Crumble the Feta. When the rice is cooked, remove it from the stove and stir the cheese into the rice. Then add the eggs and mix until all is combined. Set the rice filling in the refrigerator to cool and stiffen while you prepare the dough.
Pre heat the oven to 400°. I use the convection bake setting on my electric oven. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
For the dough, combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk the cold water and oil together in a two cup glass measure. Add the liquid to the flour. Gather the dough together in a ball with your hands, making sure all is incorporated. Separate the dough into 42 walnut size balls. With your fingers roll the balls until smooth. Smooth balls roll out easier and more uniform, when you make the flat rounds to fill. Roll each ball out to about a 3 inch round using a wooden rolling pin. You can do this on a wood or stone surface. Take care not to roll the rolling pin over the edges of your rounds or the edges will be thin and centers thick.
Roll out all of the balls of dough and with a mounded teaspoonful place some filling directly in the center of each round. Using your thumb and index finger, pinch 6 or more points around the Kezada to form an open faced kind of star. Place them on silpat lined or parchment lined cookie sheets.