Two very popular snacks in Malta are Qassatat and Pastizzi. You can call them cousins with pastizzi being the posher or richer of the two. I find qassatat are the easier ones to make so we’ll be tackling that one first and then later on, we’ll try our hand at making pastizzi.
There’s all sort of different fillings you can use for the qassatat and ricotta ones seem to be the most favoured. You can add raisins or sauteed onions or fresh fava beans with the ricotta. These types of fillings are sought after during Lent when it’s customary to fast.
Other types of fillings include meat and anchovies, but really, you can make as many types of filling as your creativity and taste will take you.
So this is your basic Ricotta Qassatat Recipe
1 lb all purpose flour
8 oz chilled butter cut up in cubes
1 egg (optional)
pinch of salt
about 1/2 cup water
Start by putting the flour and butter and salt in your stand mixer and work it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and water and knead until it comes together.
Take it out and knead it into a ball and let it rest at room temperature for about half an hour.
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (optional)
Some ricotta is more creamy than others and you might only need one egg…so use your judgement. The filling should not be too liquidy or it would ooze out of the dough.
Put all the ingredients together and stir vigorously.
Roll half the dough into two long ropes about two inches thick and cut it up into two inch chunks.
Take one piece and open it up into a circle about 3-4 inch diameter depending on how big you like them.
Put a dollop of the ricotta mixture in the middle.
Take the outside of the dough and start pleating while turning the dough about an inch each time until you get to the first pleat.
Continue this until you’ve used up the dough and ricotta.
Brush on a bit of egg wash.
Bake at 400 degree oven for about half an hour depending on your oven until they’re golden brown
I didn’t know I missed gbejniet until my dear friend Mary shared some with me a few years ago.
Mary was the first Maltese person I met when we first moved to the Bay Area. In 1996, the internet was still in the early stages and there was hardly any information or even links to Malta. The only source of interest at the time was a “chat room” for Maltese people.
Feeling very homesick, I left a message in this chat room to see if there were any other Maltese people in the area. A few days later I found a message from Mary and the best thing was that she lived only about half hour away from me. We soon realised that her husband Tom used to play soccer with my uncle Guz when they were kids!! That’s how small Malta is.
I’ve known Mary now over 15 years and we chat and visit regularly! We share recipes and I love going over her house to to catch up and visit her lovely garden which is like stepping into a Maltese Giardina with caper bushes and prickly pears. I think the only thing that’s missing is a Bambinella Tree…I’m still hoping!
So this is a recipe she so graciously shared with me. I’ve tried to tweak it a few times. I tried adding yoghurt and once I tried adding cream. I’ve made it with whole milk and with goats milk. Sheep’s milk would be ideal…but I gave up trying to find some to buy a long time ago.
You do need these cute little gbejniet baskets called Qwieleb. I believe there are a few online websites who carry them. They’re 3 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches in height.
It is very important that you do NOT use ultra pasteurised milk or homogenised milk when you are making gbejniet. Ultra-pasteurization heats the milk to 280 degrees, effectively killing any micro-organisms in the milk. You want these microbes in the milk in order for the cheese to curdle properly and for the final cheese product to actually have flavor.
This recipe will yield about 8 Gbejniet.
2 litres of Goat’s Milk
1 cup low fat milk powder
2 Rennet Junkets
2 tbsp water
First you need to sterilise all equipment.
Heat the milk with the milk powder in a non reactive pot on low and stir until the milk powder is dissolved.
Add 2 tblsp of water to the rennets and stir until dissolved and set aside.
When the milk temperature reaches 98 degrees, take it off the heat.
Add the rennet tablet mixture to the milk and stir briefly.
Cover and let set at room temperature for about 3 hours.
In the meantime, prepare a draining container with the baskets on top.
Ladle the curd into the baskets and let drain overnight.
(You can pour the collected whey in a glass container and store in the refrigerator. You can use this instead of the water for the ftira and maltese bread.)
Next morning, flip the cheese and put them back in the baskets and let them continue to drain overnight.
Cover with a net.
Next morning, making sure that they’re strong enough to handle, take them out of the baskets and sprinkle about 1/4 tsp salt all over and around each gbejna and let drip for a few hours more. Make sure to always keep them covered in case of bugs.
If you like them dried and peppered…you can do this at this stage. Grind some pepper in the plate and pat each gbejna into the pepper and cover all over and let them dry for another day (always depending on how hot and dry the day is…please use your judgement).
I don’t like a lot of pepper, so I let them air dry without the pepper. That’s the good thing about a recipe…you can adjust and substitute to your liking.
Here they are drying before being soaked into the vinegar.
Here they’ve been dried for a couple of days indoors.
I then fill a bowl with pickle vinegar and let them soak for 2-3 hours. You can use a vinegar of your choice.
Store them in a sterilised jar. I add about 2 tbsp of vinegar and olive oil and a bit more pepper. Some people cover them in vinegar.
I like to store them in the fridge and give them a good shake every now and again.
The great thing about gbejniet is that they are tasty at any stage. They are delicious fresh after you flip them. They go well with toasted bread and butter or in Soppa ta’ l-Armla (Widow’s Soup). Personally I like them after they’d been dried and soaked in vinegar. Love them on my ftira with tomato paste and olive oil!
On certain days I feel more homesick than others. Even though I’ve been living away from Malta for twenty years, I still feel that twinge of sadness when I see photos of Malta or read what’s going on on my little Island. One thing that helps on days like these, is baking Maltese goods…but yesterday I found another way to feel the closeness and get that good old fuzzy home feeling.
I don’t think it would be appropriate to have a blog called Tal-Forn and not include the best bread recipe ever! Anyone who has ever tried it has given it 5 stars and I guarantee that if you try this, you won’t be disappointed and we’ll be bread friends for life!
In fact, this recipe has made me quite a few friends, from around the world. But first let me tell you a little bit about how it came to be.
When we came to live in the United States, back in 1994, there were quite a few things I missed, but nothing more than a good loaf of Maltese Bread! I tried the fancy bakeries and the not so fancy stores but nothing came close, so within a week of settling down, I got my first bread machine! It was and still is the most used gadget in my kitchen to date! I’m actually on my third one which is less than a month old and a gift from my lovely family in Malta…love you guys soo much!
So I’ve been making bread for years and years but I still had not come close to the taste and texture of the Maltese Ftira that everyone falls in love with on their first visit to the lovely Island of Malta. Every now and then, I’d do a search for nothing, but never gave up. Then along came fb and there it was…the recipe I’d been looking for all these years on Ilovefood.com. It was quite a detailed recipe from a Linda Speight from London!! The thing that captured my interest from the get go, was her first sentence, which went something like “This is much easier than it sounds…”. Plus she had written the recipe in so much detail that I thought there was no way I could fail! And so I set on another mission to see if this was the recipe of my dreams.
Being an avid baker, I had all the ingredients on hand and started making the starter, which I’d always found intimidating. And the rest is history. The best part though, is that Linda and I are best of friends. We bonded over bread and we now chat all the time, sharing recipes and talk about food and weather and everything in between!!
Ok…so if you googled Maltese Bread or Ftira and Google brought you to my blog, you must be eager to get started and make this delicious bread in your own kitchen. I have tried making this recipe with AND without a bread machine and I have to admit that this ONLY works with a bread machine.
You have to have a starter….if you don’t, don’t worry, it’s really easy to make your own…
All you need is a clean jar and some flour and water.
Put a tablespoon each of water and flour in a clean jar and stir with a plastic spoon or chopstick which is what I use and cover. They say metal is not good…not sure why and I don’t ask questions. Store in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
Do this every day…each morning, add another tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of flour, and stir and cover…for seven days…and on the eighth day, you’re ready to start on your first loaf/rolls/ftira/pizza/focaccia…oh so many things you can make!!
In the bread machine pan, put
300gr cups water
(together the starter and water should weigh 420gr)
420gr high gluten flour 2 tsp sugar 2 tsp salt
2 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast
Put everything in the bread machine on the dough cycle. When it’s done, take out the dough and let it rest for about five minutes. Divide in 3 equal parts. Take each part and flatten it a bit to about 8-10 inch rounds. Tear a hole in the middle. Cover and let it rest until double in size for about half an hour but it really all depends on how warm your kitchen is. Bake at 425 for about 12-15 mins. Again, it depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.
Now that you made this, don’t forget to feed your starter every day. Just add equal amounts of water and flour and this can go on for years! If you need to go on holiday or just need a break from making bread, just store the starter in the fridge. When you’re ready to use again, take it out, feed it and use it at room temperature.
Hope you enjoyed this post and if you make this bread, I’ll be very happy to hear how it turned out for you or answer any questions. Here’s to bread!!