Leon’s Bakery and Phyllo Dough Pastries

by Sarah on November 23, 2009

I don’t think I am asking too much, all I want to do is see how phyllo dough is made without waking up at an ungodly hour of the night.  I went to Leon’s Bulgarian Bakery in Jaffa specifically to see how they flip phyllo dough in the air, in elegant and precise artistry but when I got there the manager told me that the pastry dough is made at 2 am. I was, however, given permission to take pictures of the phyllo being stuffed and decorated in back of the shop while the manager told me the history of the bakery.

Brushing phyllo with oil

Adding the filling

Rolling the phyllo

Cutting the stuffed phyllo

Sadly, Leon, the bakery’s name sake passed away a few years ago from cancer but his two sons are continuing his family legacy, the art of handmade phyllo dough. The sons, in fact are the third generation in the bakery business which was started by their grandmother in Bulgaria and has continued with their immigration to Israel. During the height of culinary development of the Ottoman Empire, phyllo dough was used in both savory and sweet recipes in their famous kitchens of Topkapi in Istanbul. Areas which were under Ottoman rule integrated the Turkish style of cooking including many of the Balkan nations such as Bulgaria, the Levant and Greece.

Baklava stuffed with walnuts

What makes phyllo dough unique is its complete lack of oil. It is made only with high gluten flour and water and stretched into paper thin sheets which are used to make baklava, burek and many other stuffed delicacies.  Often the sheets are layered and brushed with margarine, butter or oil to produce a layered pastry effect. While most bakeries continue to use margarine, Leon’s has switched to canola oil to reduce trans fat in their products, although their baked goods can also be ordered using butter. It is also possible to order just the handmade pastry sheets as well as kadaif, which looks like shredded wheat (also called shredded phyllo) which is used to make the traditional Arab kadaif desert.

There is a steady stream of customers going in and out of Leon’s bakery and he even gets visits from well known television personalities such as Gidi Gov, who produced a television show on Israeli foods as well as Phyllis Glazer, a journalist and cookbook author who also leads food tours in Israel.

Leon’s and Sons Bakery

Address: 17 Oleh Tzion, Jaffa

Telephone 03-6833123

Open: Sunday-Thursday 5:00-17:00

Friday 5:00- 14:00


Boyos, Eggplant and Meat Burek

Boyos is a ladino term used for many different Sephardic pastries including this one which was inspired by Benny Saida and the classic flavors of the Balkan. Janet Amateau has an interesting post about boyos  in her Sephardic food blog.

500 grams ground lamb or beef

1 onions, finely chopped

2 medium sized eggplants

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

About 10 sheets of phyllo dough

Poke the eggplants with a fork in a few places and grill them whole until soft. Split them open and place them flesh down in a colander above a bowl to drain excess moisture. When they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and discard the chard skins. Preheat oven to 180 C. Meanwhile fry the onion in olive oil until golden brown, add the meat and cook until it changes color and begins to brown. Add the tomato paste, eggplant puree and spices. If the mixture is too wet, continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Add the parsley.

Layer 2 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing olive oil between each sheet. Place a fifth of the meat mixture across the length of sheets and roll the sheet to form a long cigar. Fold the cigar into a snail shape and place on baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the phyllo sheets. Make an eggwash and brush across the tops of the stuffed pastries. Bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  It is also possible to layer half of the phyllo sheets in a pyrex baking tray, spreading the meat mixture over it and covering with the remaining sheets.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael November 24, 2009 at 3:53 am

Wow, it look so delicious. One of your tasiest blogs…


Shaya November 25, 2009 at 6:03 am

I know what you mean about wanting to see how phyllo is made. My grandmother never made her own, never even spoke about making her own. When my Greek friend told me her Mom and sister make their own I immediately knew I had to see it for myself. Well, her Mom is here visiting her this week, here’s hoping I get lucky!

On another note, I am surprised to hear about the use of margarine in pastry. This is not an ingredient I am impressed with! Is this used widely around the globe, do you think?


Sarah November 25, 2009 at 11:42 pm

There are several reasons why margerine is used
1. It is a a nondairy substitute so it can be kosher after a meat meal
2. Margerine is much cheaper than butter
3. Butter wasn’t always available during the early days of Israel’s existence and people got used to the switch.

Yemenite specialities for example also use a large amount of margerine although traditionally they used samna (clarified butter)
Shaya, Please take alot of pictures if your friend’s Mom from Greece decides to make homemade phyllo, then you can do a guest post :-)


Heidi H November 25, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I made some baklava this afternoon — with store bought dough, of course. But this video does a good job of showing how it is made commercially by hand as well as machine.


The recipe for the baklava is on my blog.



Sarah November 25, 2009 at 11:36 pm

thank you for the link, I guess that’s the next best thing


Baroness Tapuzina November 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I wish I could have gone with you and Miriam. David and I will be more than happy to go see them make phyllo at 2am on a Thursday night. Let’s go!!!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: