Pumpkin Samsa (Bukaharian- Uzbek baked vegetarian dumplings)

Vegetarian Samsa
Adapted from Gil Mark's Olive Trees and Honey. Wiley 2005 

Bukharian Jews are an ancient Jewish community from Central Asia. They have a distinct culture and like Jewish communities throughout the world developed a Jewish-Persian dialect called Bukhori.  The community remained isolated over the centuries, with short periods of time that they enjoyed safety and flourished. Over time they dropped their Persian-Jewish practices and with exposure to traveling scholars from Ottoman Palestine began practicing Judaism in the Sephardi tradition. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 an exodus began, speeding up after World War II. The community has almost completely relocated to Israel and parts of the United States, with remnant communities existing in Tashkent (Uzbekestan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan). The community in Dushanbe was almost totally destroyed in the early 2000's; the majority of the community has emigrated. 

Dumplings are a delicious export from ancient China. Food ingredients and preparation methods crossed national and cultural boundaries all along the ancient trade routes. The Bukharian Jews living along the the "Silk Road," the overland trade route stretching from China, through Central Asia are no exception. 

Samsa are ubiquitous in Central Asia with many variant fillings, including meat, mutton, fat from the tail of the sheep, onions and various vegetables. They are baked, whether inside a tandoor or a typical western-style oven. The vegetarian version I've included are typical of "pareve" (non-dairy/non-meat) fillings created for use on Shabbat and at other festive meals. 

Other vegetable versions of samsa I found use cabbage and beets, flavored with coriander, pepper and cumin as well as green herb mixtures that include cilantro, parsley, mint. On one blog, written by a woman in Uzbekistan, I found a recipe for samsa that included chickpeas, onions, coriander and black pepper. 

This recipe includes instructions for making a stiff dough found Gil Mark's Olive Tree's & Honey. Some of the cooks and blog authors I've found on line recommend using puff pastry (a different dough texture) or ready-made won-ton wrappers (a fall back used for kreplach as well). 

The filling is made by slowly cooking the vegetables and completely cooling. Both the dough and filling can be made up to 2 days before assembly. 

The dough is rolled, filled, placed on baking sheets and baked. Making dumplings is time consuming and in my opinion its better to make more than you need and freeze the extra dumplings for use at another time. 

Samsa are triangle shaped, however, from examining various sources, including a You Tube video, is formed in a manner similar to making a folded paper hat, then turned over so the smooth side faces up while the dumplings bake. 

I made the dough in a Cuisinart; however, it can be mixed in a bowl
mixing bowl
measuring cups, measuring spoons, scale 
rolling pin
silpat or other flat surface for rolling out the dough (if you are making your own dough)
heavy bottom pan (to slow cook the squash)
mixing spoon
heavy gauge baking sheet
parchment paper 

8 oz (1 c) warm water
2-3 Tbsp neutral oil (corn, safflower) or clarified butter (which will make the samsa dairy)
1.5 tsp kosher salt 
12 oz (3 scant cups) all purpose flour 
2 eggs, mixed + 2 tsp vegetable oil  (for egg wash)

Squash/Pumpkin filling:
1/4 c neutral vegetable oil 
2 large onions, diced 
1 - 1.5 lb peeled, seeded and diced winter squash (I use butternut, but any hard squash will work)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper 

For the dough:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and salt.
2. Mix the oil into the water and slowly add the water through the feed while blending the mixture. 
3. Mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Transfer to a slightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 1 hour (or up to 2 days). 

Alternatively: use prepared won-ton or dumpling wrappers (square shaped). 

For the filling:
1. Heat the oil in a saucepan (a heavy base pan will work better), add the onion and slowly cook  until the pieces just begin to caramelize.
2. Add the diced squash and cover. Cook slowly until the squash is soft (15-25 minutes depending on the squash you use). Stir the mixture to prevent burning, but do not add water. 
3. Mix in the spices and either mash the mixture or spin it in the food processor to form a puree. 
4. Cool the mixture completely. 

To assemble the dumplings:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Take a small portion of dough (about 1/4 of the total), knead a bit, form into     an oblong and begin to roll out to a thin rectangle.  Dust the work surface with flour to keep from sticking. 
2. Fold the top third over the center of the rectangle, and the bottom third over     the folded portion. You are essentially creating a "layered" effect in the dough. 
3. You will have a log shape. Roll out to lengthen the log and then reverse the       rolling to create a rectangle, approximately 12" x 6" 
4. Cutting across the width of the dough, cut the rectangle into 6-8 portions. 

5. Roll out one portion to create a rectangle approximately 4"x3" - it will shrink       back a bit. Brush with egg mixture. 

6. Place a heaping Tbsp of filling, centered in the upper third of the rectangle. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edge to cover the filling. The lower third     of the dough will have no filling on it. Brush the exposed dough with egg               mixture. Fold it up (as if forming a folded paper hat or paper boat). Smooth           over the filled portion. The egg mixture will help seal all of the seams. 
7. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Brush top surface with       egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

8. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn baking sheet 180 degrees and bake an additional 10- 12 minutes until the dumplings begin to turn a light golden color. 
9. Cool dumplings on a rack. Repeat the process until the dough is used up.         Depending on the size of the dumplings you create this recipe will make                 approximately 24-30 dumplings. 
10. Dumplings can be served with spicey tomato sauce (to keep the dish pareve or non-dairy) or sour cream. 


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