In Greece, this week marks the last week of a festive carnival season, before the start of Great Lent, which precedes Orthodox Easter. It is a week where many abstain from meat, but happily
over indulge in cheese and dairy products in anticipation of the upcoming period of fast, which for many, typically prohibits most animal products. Even those who will not follow a strict fast enjoy the opportunity to celebrate and feast on cheese and things made with cheese. These tyropites, with homemade phyllo dough, are our nod to this carnival week of Tyrini (cheese week).
There are so many ways to make tyropites, and every family certainly has their favourite recipe. This is ours. Although making tyropites using store-bought phyllo dough (similar in technique to the spanakopitakia we have shared with you) is another delicious option, making your own phyllo adds another level of deliciousness. In this particular recipe the phyllo is made with yogourt (let’s get as much dairy in here as we can) and the filling is a mixture of ricotta cheese and Greek feta; a combination which is flavourful and light. The result are small packets of creamy, cheese filling wrapped in a flaky, but light, dough. Lovely.
We have indicated the total time for preparing these tyropites to be 3 hours; take that with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that preparing your dough will take you about 15 – 20 minutes. It then needs to rest for about 1 hour. During this hour you can start to prepare your filling (total time to prepare your filling should not really be more than about 15 – 20 minutes). At that point, it is time to form your tyropites, and to bake them. Total time will depend on how many hands you have helping you, and how easily you get the hang of shaping them. We estimate that if you decide to shape and then cook the entire batch, you are committing to about 3 hours of work, start to finish.
The filling for these tyropites uses a combination of ricotta cheese and feta cheese. Prior to mixing everything together, drain the ricotta to remove as much liquid as you can. A too wet filling can result in a soggy and unevenly cooked dough.
This recipe makes a lot of tyropites…about 70 of them. Although you can easily half the recipe, we don’t think you should. Making these tyropites is an minor event, and takes a time commitment. It really won’t take you that much longer to make 70 versus 35 tyropites, especially if you enlist some help (and for the record, help, when making any kind of pita is a very good thing). Once you have formed your 70 or so tyropites you can bake what you like, and freeze the rest. To freeze, simply place the tyropites on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and then, once frozen, store in a freezer bag. When you are ready to bake a few (or 30), simply let them sit out for about 30 minutes, and then bake as directed below. Trust us, you’ll be happy to have this stock on hand.
You can certainly use a fancy little dumpling turnover maker to help shape your tyropites…but why would you do that? Be like our parents and decide that some random household object would work just as well. Our parents seem to alternate between using an old plastic glass and a candy dish bomboniere that they got from a wedding close to 30 years ago. Thankfully, the bride and groom are still happily married (and will likely be surprised to learn that their bomboniere is so versatile).
Shaping these little pitas can take some practice, (watch this video, of the master at work.) Be patient, they certainly don’t have to be perfect. The key is to make sure that the phyllo dough is pretty equal in thickness once you have rolled it out (to ensure even cooking) and that the cheese filling is enclosed fully. Having said that, we were somewhat surprised to notice that our parents didn’t put too much emphasis on sealing the edges closed. We think that the dough is the type that just tends to stick together when one edge is placed over the other. Still, if you are uncertain, a little pressure around the edges won’t hurt.
Mia Kouppa: Tyropites with homemade phyllo dough
- For the phyllo dough
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 135 grams or 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
- 1 cup corn or vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 containers (175 grams each or 3/4 cups each) natural yogurt (we use the brand: Astro, Balkan, natural yogourt) ..(total 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt For the filling
- 600 grams (or 2 1/2 cups) ricotta (soft un-ripened cheese)
- 2 cups grated Greek feta cheese
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- Extra flour for dusting dough when you are rolling it out.
- 2 eggs for brushing onto tyropites
- For the phyllo dough
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the baking powder and salt and mix well with a fork or a whisk. Add in the rest of the phyllo dough ingredients in the following order: melted butter, corn oil, eggs, and natural yogurt.
- Mix the dough well with your hands or a wooden spoon. When the ingredients are all incorporated together, knead the dough (by hand) for approximately 5 minutes. You will notice that the dough is somewhat greasy and wet. This is fine. Once you have thoroughly kneaded the dough, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for about one hour.
- When the hour is almost up you can start to prepare the filling. For the filling
- Combine, in a large bowl, the ricotta cheese (try to drain off any liquid in the ricotta container and discard this liquid), the feta, the eggs and the flour. Mix well with a fork. Set aside.
- When your dough is ready to be rolled, take a handful of dough at a time and start to roll it out using a rolling pin. You may find that the dough is too sticky. If that is the case, sprinkle each handful of dough with a bit of flour. This will make the rolling out process simpler.
- Roll the dough out so that it is quite thin – almost as thin as a cardboard piece of paper. Each piece should also be large enough to be able to form at least one tyropita (to be “safe”, it should be about as large as a dessert plate).
- Place approximately one tablespoon of cheese filling on one end of the phyllo dough. Fold it over to create a pocket (watch the video in the Helpful Hints link above). You will then use something (anything!) to cut the phyllo dough, so that you are left with a half moon shaped tyropita.
- Have your oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your tyropites on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in bottom rack of oven for about 15 minutes. Move baking sheet to middle rack of oven and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until they’re golden in colour. After those 15-20 minutes, remove your baking sheet from the oven. Beat together 1 – 2 eggs (depending on how many tyropites you are actually baking in the moment) and brush on to the top of the tyropites.
- Return to middle rack of oven and bake for approximately 10 more minutes.
- Your tyropites are done when the phyllo and egg wash are golden brown. Enjoy.