pie made with brick pastry

Science of Brick pastry & Warqa

The more you learn about different cuisines, the more similarities you can see between them. So, when recently learning about brick pastry, which is a very thin dough cooked on a flat griddle, I quickly learned that a lot of other cuisines have something like it. It might instead be called warqa/warka, spring roll pastry or again something else (let us know in the comments!), but it really is kind of the same thing.

Each cuisine gives their own spin to it, maybe exchanging the type of flour, the way the batter is applied to the pan or change up the flavours. But somehow they all came to the same conclusion (or learned from one another, that’s hard to know for sure) that creating this super thin pastry can be easier if you don’t have to roll (or stretch) a dough, but can just ‘paint’ in onto a pan!

What is special about brick pastry?

For simplicity sake we will call all these pastry types “brick pastry”. Do remember, that there are a lot of different names for this same product.

Brick pastry is a very thin type of pastry, generally about 1 mm of less thick. That in and by itself makes it very special since it is hard to make pastries as thin as brick pastry (papads are some of the thinnest doughs you still roll out). You can’t roll most doughs and pastry that thin, which is also why is isn’t rolled out! Instead, people found out that by spreading a thin layer of the pastry batter on a hot surface with a brush, they could create this thin layer a lot more easily. By cooking the batter, it will hold together and form that thin layer.

The most similar pastry to brick pastry is likely filo dough. Filo dough is just as thin, dries out very quickly as well and for longer term storage should be stored in the freezer as well. However, filo pastry is completely raw. It hasn’t yet been cooked, whereas an important characteristic of brick pastry is that it has been cooked to some extent.

Because brick pastry has been cooked, it isn’t as flexible anymore as filo dough is. However, it is more sturdy, it doesn’t break as easily. Also, the layers don’t stick to one another as easily (raw doughs tend to stick to one another very easily!).

close up of brick pastry
Close up of a freshly made layer of brick pastry. Notice how it comes loose on the sides and notice the brush strokes from painting the batter onto the pan!

Cooking brick pastry

An essential part of making brick pastry is to transform a pretty liquid batter into an actual pastry that you can shape, fold and roll. Cooking such a thin pastry can be quite a challenge. Its thinness makes it very prone to burning and it dries out very quickly.

Therefore, instead of cooking it right above a high heat, such as a kitchen stove, you will see recipes asking for brick pastry to be cooked on a flat surface above a pot of boiling water. By placing the flat surface on top of boiling water, it will not get a lot warmer than 100C. This gives you enough time to spread the thin batter on your pan, and enough heat for it to dry quick enough without burning. It is virtually impossible to burn this pastry.

Using brick pastry

Once brick pastry has been made on a hot surface, it is ready for use. Since it is very thin it will dry out quite quickly. This is a disadvantage when you still want to roll or fold it, but it also means that it crisps up in a hot area such as an oven very easily. Because it is so thin, the moisture evaporates very rapidly and almost none will be caught in the middle either.

You will see brick pastry being used in a wide variety of dishes. A Moroccan dish, bastilla, tends to use a form of brick pastry, as do various types of spring rolls. Since the pastry is thin and neutral in flavor you can use it for a lot of different applications.

Yield: about 15 layers of each 15cm diameter

Brick pastry (Warqa)

Brick pastry (Warqa)

This recipe makes very thin brick pastry layers. Making the layers and 'painting' them onto your pan may take some practice. Also, make sure to use a very smooth pan (non-stick will help) since the pastry needs to let loose easily. Do not use a cast iron skillet, the brick seems to slowly take off your seasoning and it's not as smooth as you ideally want it.

You can use the brick pastry to make spring rolls, pies and so many other dishes.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200g flour (you can use both bread and all purpose flour, both worked for us)
  • 250 ml water

Optional

  • pinch of salt
  • a tsp of lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a spatula.
  2. Either use your muscle power, an immersion blender or a food processor to make your dough into a very smooth liquid dough. It is very important that there are no clumps left anymore. When spreading out the batter onto the pan it should be completely smooth.
  3. Leave the batter to sit for some 15 minutes, you can also leave it for a few hours. Over time it will become slightly more fluid.
  4. Take a flat frying pan or flat griddle and place it on top of a pan of boiling water. Keep the water at a slow rolling boil while baking.
  5. Make sure that you choose your pot to be at least the size of your desired brick pastry leaf since the sides sticking out won't heat as well so aren't as useful for layering with the brick pastry.
  6. Using a pastry brush, gently spread the batter in a very thin layer over your pan. You generally only need a single layer of batter.. Don't worry if your first batch doesn't turn out as well, the pan needs to heat properly and thus chances of it not working out as well as bigger*.
  7. Wait for the top to dry out and turn white. At this point gently release the brick pastry from the pan. If it is still very soft, just leave it a little longer. It tends to take a few minutes to cook.
  8. Take the layer and place it in between paper towels if you're not using it immediately. You can stack layers on top of one another without worrying too much about them sticking together as long as you'll be using them within a few hours. Your main worry should be to prevent them from drying out. Once they are dry they turn crispy and you can't roll or form them anymore.

Notes

*If your pan is truly non stick you should not have to oil your pan at all. However, if you're using carbon steel for instacne (as we did) you may need to oil your pan after every about 4 layers. Just take a few drops of oil, just enough to cover the surface on which you're baking and spread it out thinly. After you've oiled your pan (again) the next layer tends to not works as well, because of the oil, it is harder to spread out without it coming loose too quickly, so brush very gently and don't go over the same place twice. If your brick layers start to stick to your pan again, just oil again, very lightly,

Sources

How to make warqa, A great video on YouTube demonstrating how you can make warqa, link

Moroccan pastry, Homemade warqa recipe, Jan-8 2014, link

Joe Pastry, Making Warqa a.k.a. brik pastry, link

Joe Pastry, A dab will do you, link

Seasaltwithfood, Popiah skin, June-13 2010, link

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