Learn the science behind:
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!).
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.
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