Spanakopita and Phyllo Dough Recipe

Feb 9th, 2008 | By | Category: Baking, Cheese, Greek, How To, Phyllo, Vegetables

Ladies and Gentlemen, I DID IT!

I present to you today, a very special treat – a window in on the Greek kitchen, to peer in and rediscover a vanishing art in Greek cuisine.

I’m of course speaking of making your own phyllo dough. I promised to only show how to make a “pita” and homemade phyllo only when I can truly say that it was made with my own hands.

The ensuing Spanakopita was made under a very watchful eye of my mother but I’m very proud to present this to you, personally from me.

Follow the instructions carefully. One step’s successful execution will make or break if the next step turns out. After watching my mom and trying to making it myself in previous attempts, each step will determine the success of the next step.

Another as aspect of a pita is a good filling. I think the biggest mistake made by Greeks and non-Greeks alike is no balance in the filling: too much spinach, too much feta, not enough of one ingredient or the lack of other ingredients. A filling of simply spinach and feta is too bold, a sledgehammer to the palete – all other flavour is lost, like tasting the delicate phyllo, the mellow Myzithra (ricotta), the essence of the spinach.

Don’t expect to get this right the first time. You’ll need to get a feel for the dough and they make or break step of actually pinching out the dough with your fingers…that talent will come with time.

I love my mom’s pita and I challenge any Greek (or non-Greek) to make a better one. My mom used to be the crew-boss for the Ladies’ Auxilliary of our church and they would all participate n making trays upon trays of “pitas” for the annual St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church’s summer Greek festival.

I have serious offers to commercially sell these but for years my mom’s been shutting down my requests to take her”pitas” to the next level.

Armed with her kitchen wisdom, I may just do it myself!

Spanakopita
(makes 1 round tray, large sized pizza)

2 cups of warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 Tbsp. fine salt

1/8 cup vegetable oil

Min. 4 cups of all-purpose white flour

(may need 5 cups of flour depending on the day)
a mixture of 1/2 cup clarified butter and 1/2 cup olive oil


Spinach Filling


500gr. Myzithra (ricotta cheese)
3 large eggs

500 gr. feta cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh dil
l
2 bunches of scallions, sauteed in oil (softened)

2 -500 gr. packages of Cookin’ Greeens chopped spinach ( or 3 bunches of spinach, washed, blanched, drained)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix all of the above ingredients and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, reserve.


Making the Phyllo

  1. In a large bowl, add 2 cups of warm water, your sugar and yeast. Allow the yeast to activate in the time of approx. 5 minutes (it should foam).
  2. Add the salt and vegetable oil.
  3. Using your hands, gradually add the flour while kneading. depending on the day, temperature, humidity, you’ll need anywhere from 4 to 5 cups of flour. It should be firm, but still a little sticky
  4. Spread a handful of flour on your surface. Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes. Add small amounts of flour as your kneading until the dough ball no longer sticks to your hands. The dough should still be soft, firm yet a little sticky.
  5. Cut the dough into little meatball sizes (about 21 to 22 little pieces) and cover them with flour to prevent them from sticking.
  6. Divide your dough balls into two groups: 12 dough balls are for your bottom portion of the pita and 10 (or 11) balls or for the top portion of the pita (middle being the filling).
  7. Throw some flour on your work surface and roll out your dough balls into flat rounds the size of a large pancake. Brush each round with the butter/oil mix and create a two stacks (one for bottom, one for top).
  8. Brush the baking tray with ONLY vegetable oil…butter or olive oil will burn.
  9. This step is VERY IMPORTANT…Take a pancake of dough from the bottom stack, hold the top part of the round with both hands and use one hand to to move the dough (clockwise or counterclockwise) and use the other hand with your index and thumb pinching the dough upwards and outwards. This motion plus gravity is stretching out your elastic dough to a paper thin consistency. See it getting thin? Some holes may develop, it’s okay, your other layers will cover for you.
  10. Place your thin layer of what is now a phyllo sheet onto your baking tray and gently stretch it out to the rim of the tray.
  11. Repeats steps 8 and 9 until all of the pancakes from your “bottom pile” have been been laid out on the surface. Transfer to the baking tray and stretch out your bottom phyllo layers to the entire rim circumference.
  12. Drizzle the bottom layers of your pita with the butter/oil mixture and brush the entire surface. Poke some holes in the phyllo with a fork.
  13. Add your spanakopita filling to the tray and spread it out so that’s even.
  14. Repeat steps 8 and 9 to complete the top part of your phyllo component.
  15. Drizzle the top layers of your pita with the butter/oil mixture and brush the entire surface.
  16. Using a fork, poke any air bubbles that make have formed in the “pita’ and brush the top of your “pita” with the oil/butter mixture.
  17. Pre-heat your oven to 375F, middle rack and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden-brown.
  18. When your Spanakopita is done, place the tray on the stove or counter-top and cover with a large folded tablecloth for 30 minutes before cutting.

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57 Comments to “Spanakopita and Phyllo Dough Recipe”

  1. Tablebread says:

    It just so happens that last weeks episode of No Reservations (a U.S. base traveling/cooking show) was in Greece. He visited a place where a Greek chef was making phylo dough from scratch. I was amazed to see that.

    Then you came along with this even more amazing demonstration of homemade phylo. I never would have thought it was possible! What an amazing crusty job you’ve done! I am truly having bakers envy :)

  2. Kalyn says:

    It looks just delicious. I remember eating this in Greece, along with Tiropita (my absolute favorite!)

    I am suitably impressed! Way to go.

  3. Elly says:

    Peter, this is really impressive! Looks delicious. I don’t even like using phyllo out of the box because I am constantly tearing it, let alone make my own. I saw the same episode of No Reservations a couple weeks ago too :)

  4. Simona says:

    Would your mother be willing to teach pita making skills workshops? I’d sign up. Great post, Peter!

  5. Cakespy says:

    WOW. You really did it! How impressive (and delicious!!).

  6. Nicole says:

    Amazing!

  7. Pixie says:

    Holy Komolee! Yowzers! That looks incredibly wonderful yet really difficult to make. Well done and how fortunate for you to have your mum around to share her fabulous recipes. I have to call my mum long distance for her verbal recipes, and try to figure the rest out on my own.

  8. Katerina says:

    I can’t believe you made your own phyllo dough. I bow down in awe.

  9. Pam says:

    Wow Peter. Firstly, I never realised that phylo was pretty much a bread dough, so I’ve learnt something today. You have made it look so easy to create and I’m sure it tastes a thousand times better than the boxed stuff. I’m going to definitely have a go at making this. Thank you!

  10. MARIA V says:

    congratulations peter, your pita looks divine. i am adding a link to my own spanakopita recipe, which – I am amazed to discover – was posted on the same day as yours!

  11. Lisa says:

    You’ve outdone yourself here Peter! I have enough trouble with pre-made phyllo and here you have gone and made your own! Spanakopitas are one of my favorite Greek treats. Good job!

    Now, if only you would move to London so I could try some of your cooking :)

  12. Maryann says:

    This is a post I will keep referring to. Thanks Peter and Mom!

  13. Laurie Constantino says:

    Peter, your spanakopita is absolutely beautiful in every way. It’s interesting you use yeast in your filo – I never have, but yours sure looks perfect. I’ve barely had time to sign on to the internet this week, and boy have I missed out on a lot. All of your posts look extremely delicious. Great job!!

  14. Emiline says:

    Geez, I don’t know how to feel about this. I feel lazy, compared to you. I’m kind of in awe that you made that. Really.
    I doubt I could dublicate this.

  15. Cakelaw says:

    All I can say is WOW! I didn’t think that anybody made their own phyllo (hey, I struggle enough with the frozen stuff). And I ador spinach and fetta in “filo”. Those frozen party ones just aren’t the same – sigh …

  16. aforkfulofspaghetti says:

    That’s stunning, Peter! And I love the way you did it in that lovely tin – reminds me of how I brought a tray of baklava just like that back from Greece once. Mmmmm…. spanakopita – one of my most favourite snacks…

  17. Ivy says:

    This looks great. Well done Peter, but I haven’t either heard of yeast in pjyllo for pitas.

  18. Núria says:

    Congratulations Peter!!! It does look marvellous! Aren’t moms the best?

  19. Lore says:

    Congrats Peter! You are right to be pround of your achievement!
    Looks delicious but also pretty hard to get it right. Still I might give it a try since I like a good “feuilletage” with a salty filling.

  20. Louise (Gato Azul) says:

    I’m astounded, amazed, dismayed and just plain impressed! Would love this for dinner with a nice salad!

  21. Heather says:

    Holy effing ess, Peter. You are such a rock star! My cassoulet is utterly Flintstonian compared to your homemade phyllo. You have humbled me once again, sir.

  22. Heather says:

    Also, Doodoolily? That made me roflmao. Thanks, Peter the Geek!

  23. Annemarie says:

    This looks wonderfully, perfectly, buttery, papery perfect. May I have a slice, please?

  24. winedeb says:

    Holy Cow Peter!!! I am totally impressed! Who took the photos when everyones hands were in the picture?
    Nice job Peter! I really like the spinich filling ingredients also!

  25. Sam Sotiropoulos says:

    Peter, great job! I am going to try this one out for myself.

    Sam

  26. Aimée says:

    Hat’s off to you, Peter, You are seriously hard core.

  27. Allen of EOL says:

    Is there anything you can’t do? Amazing, simply amazing.

  28. sher says:

    Great post! I enjoyed looking at the pictures–and wish I could have some of the spanakopita. You’re a master!

  29. Peter M says:

    Tablebread, I too saw the Bourdain episode in Greece, a must-see for anyone comtemplating visiting there.

    Kalyn, this is Greece, embodied in phyllo.

    Elly, you’re right, homemade phyllo is much easier to handle.

    Simona, with a few more “pitas” under my belt, I’ll put on a clinic.

    Pixie, my mom is my most valuable cooking resource.

    Katerina, Thank you very much (Elvis voice)!

    Pam, good for you having the courage to try it, it’s intimidating but possible.

    Maria, thank you for your support…it’s just like the old days…Cretans and Makedones together!

    Lisa, you’ll have to come up the 401 for the tasting.

    Laurie and Ivy, I asked my mom and she insists the little yeast used is very important for keeping the phyllo soft after it’s baked (rather than crumble and crack).

    Forkful, Greece exists beyond it’s borders…another 10 million Greeks around the world.

    Nuria, moms are difficult but yes, they best!

    Lore, I like your attitude, by all means try it out.

    Louise, I’m honoured that I’ve evoked all those emotions in you.

    Heather, thank you SweetCheeks, I’m your biggest groupie! ;)

    Anne Marie, you’ll have to wait for the next batch.

    Winedeb, I took the photos and had my mom pose for shots…she clsely supervised this masterpiece.

    Sam, you have the skills the pull it off.

    Aimee, this was “so metal”!

    Allen, yes…baking in general mortifies me…my baking flops could equal my blog posts!

    Sher, I’m honoured to be complemented by someone such as yourself who excels in the kitchen.

  30. life, views, reviews says:

    Peter, I’m in absolute awe! First of all, congratulations on a spectacular job making what looks like a superb (and yummy!) phyllo! And second, thank you soooo much for such a wonderful photo demonstration! The next time my husband takes the kids out for the afternoon, I’m going to get stuck in and give this my best shot. I started reading your blg when I saw the photo of the stuffed grape leaves (yaprakes according to my Cookbook of the Jews of Greece). The recipe we use (also from the above cookbook) will make your mouth explode with flavor. Even my kids will fight me for them (well, all of them except my 6 year old who hates everything ;-). I’ll be happy to give you the recipe if you are interested.

    -Julie

  31. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Peter, you are my hero!!!!

  32. Ferdzy says:

    Oh my! Oh my! That’s just amazing!

    *cries*

  33. Randi says:

    seriously peter, you have become my all time favorite food blogger. you blog every day or twice a day and you make both greek and greek influenced foods that i’m always excited to comment about and make. thanks for being the best. another mystery unraveled – this may beyond my comfort level for now, but i’m bookmarking this for an adventurous day.

  34. GollyGumDrops says:

    Congratulations! You must have been so happy. The finished product looks divine, but I’m not brave enough to try.

  35. anna_nik says:

    Incroyable!
    Peter…u tackled the pita with great success! I particularly like the crimped edges and the ready made slices..that u created on the pita before u put it in the oven..nice touch!

    You have done savory I’d like to see u make smthg sweet like Baklava or Kataifi..

    Ahem,just briefly glanced at ur food posts do you have a good DIPLES recipie?

    A~

  36. Kevin says:

    Great job on making your own phyllo dough!! The Spanakopita looks really tasty!

  37. Peter M says:

    Julie, welcome and yes, I’d love to have the recipe and get some info on the book of Jewish cooking from Greece.

    Patricia, I’ll wear a cape for ya!

    Randi, you’re too kind and thanks for being with my blog from the start and trying some recipes, best satisfaction for me.

    Anna, you’re right…I do need some more desserts in offerings…I’m working on it (including Diples).

    Kevin, thanks…it gave me a big high to accomplish this.

  38. San Francisco Photos says:

    Amazing, looks fab!

  39. Jeena says:

    Peter this is an amazing recipe, how great to make your own filo. Love all the pictures well done I would be proud. :-)

  40. Proud Italian Cook says:

    Peter, I could have sworn I commented on your Spanakopita!Maybe I didn’t hit publish?? Anyway, a true work of art!! and my compliments to the chef! So flaky, it’s amazing!

  41. culinography says:

    Oh my gosh… that looks WONDERFUL, Peter!

  42. Wandering Chopsticks says:

    Oh wow Peter! I’m in awe! I can’t believe you made your own phyllo dough!!!

    I love that shot of the dough over your arm and spread out. It’s so amazingly thin.

  43. Pasticcera says:

    Thank you for this excellent recipe with great visuals, I can hardly wait to try this.I hope I am worthy!

  44. phoena says:

    Ola Peter,

    I was thinking maybe… maybe you can make a instructional video on the part of making the pastry? Well, the whole recipe would be great! :-D

  45. Marianna says:

    Oh my goodness, you actually MADE the phyllo?? How much patience does that need? I’ve honestly never made it before, never thought of it either (although I have made my own pate feuilletée + sablée) but never phyllo…I just buy it ready all the time. Shame on me after having read your post!

  46. Anonymous says:

    My Grandmother used to make Pita for every family holiday. I would make it with my Dad when he took over making it after Grandma passed away.
    Both of them use to take the balls of dough and stack them on top of each other with crisco between each layer and then roll out very thin with a long skinny rolling pin, actually it was a broom handle Grandma cut to use as her pin.
    The results were perfect! When Grandma got older she once used store bought phyllo dough and it was not as good.
    I never knew the exact measurements that my Dad used for his dough, but your recipe gives me a jumping off spot to start experimenting to bring that family favorite back to the table now that my Dad is gone also.
    Thanks!

  47. Elle says:

    I’m so impressed! That seems like something I’d never be able to accomplish. It’s hard enough using the packaged stuff.

    As for the filling, I agree–you’ve got to have dill. Ricotta, though, that’s a new one for me. Going to have to give this a try. At least the filling part!

  48. Jeff says:

    No one is better teacher than mom! I cheat and buy the premade phyllo because I suffer from shiny object syndrome badly. Heck it is taking every bit of concentration just to type this up.

    Looks amazing and once again bowdown bowdown bowdown.

  49. Cristie says:

    This is the most beautiful spanakopita I’ve ever seen! I will give this a try on a day when I have a lot of good self esteem. Thank you for fabulous instruction!

  50. […] are lots of different recipes around for spanakopita but I like to keep it simple and cheesy. Here is my […]

  51. […] Which of your posts were most popular? PETER: There’s a blog post where I made homemade phyllo. DIANE: You have a daytime job, what do you do for a living and do you have any future plans to make […]

  52. wow! so glad i found this: I was wondering if it matters if the flour is “bleached” or “unbleached”; when I made strudel, the recipe said use only unbleached flour. Merci~

  53. […] quality menu planning.This past week I took some of the chopped spinach that was left from making a Spanakopita filling and reserved it for dinner. Dinner was going to be flounder fillets stuffed and roll with […]

  54. Anastasia says:

    oh my goodness that looks like the best spanikopeta ever! I think I am finally going to try my hand at filo! I cant believe there is yeast in filo! Who knew! Thank you for the inspiration!

  55. Mary Dailey says:

    Years ago, my grandmother made her own dough. She made her spanakopita in a 13 X 9 pan, so she would put a clean sheet on the bed and use a broom handle to roll out the dough and cut it into the size she wanted. No wonder the Greek ladies were so stingy with their pastries! It took so long to make them. I like your Mother’s method much better! Thanks for sharing!

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