This past summer while in Greece we had a little thing goin’ on with friends: bring some leftovers to the beach so that we could nosh/have some snacks to keep our growling bellies at bay. You see, Greece is hot in the summer…very hot. Despite late nights spent with family and friends I find myself waking up early from either the heat or one of the gypsies selling their goods in their Datsun pick-up trucks.
By around 10:30am I would be at the beach, alternating between refreshing dips in the sea and catching some rays on the beach chair. This tiring ritual can make one very hungry. Some friends brought grilled or fried eggplant and zucchini with some bread and cheese, others brought olives ( and bread) and some brought savory pies. Most Greek pies (pittes) are made using phyllo pastry. Commercially made phyllo is widely available and used but the homemade stuff is to be cherished.
Kuria (Mrs) Eleni, a dear friend of the family’s brought some Tyropitakia (cheese pies) made with a “zimi kourou” or one made of flour, olive oil (or butter or a combo of both) and yogurt. I wasn’t sure if I was just plain hungry or the cheese pies were just plain delish. My brain made a promise to my belly to make these cheese pies once again and I’ve finally found a recipe that I like alot because a) they remind me of the snacks we had on the beach this past summer and b) they are delicious and c) they are easy.
A big fat kiss to my friend, Chef Dina Nikoloau for sharing this wonderful recipe for Tyropitakia with zimi kourou or Cheese Pies with Yogurt. These pies were an instant hit with my family and I’ll be making this recipe tomorrow as I will be cooking for an upcoming segment on Edo Kai Tora (Here and Now), a local Greek-language show. I’ll let you know you when the cooking segments will air.
The filling is all about the cheese: crumbled Feta, fresh myzithra (ricotta) and grated Graviera cheese from Crete. The olive here in all-Greek (again from Crete) and the yogurt, the topping of sesame seeds all take me back to Summer 2010 in Greece.
Tyropitakia With Zimi Kourou (Τυροπιτάκια με ζύμη κουρού)
(makes approx. 20)
For the dough
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup of plain yogurt
1 tsp. of salt
3 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
(or 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp. of baking powder)
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 cup fresh myzithra (ricotta) cheese
1/4 cup grated Graviera (or Gruyere) cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. of finely chopped fresh mint
1 egg yolks mixed with a some cream
Pre-heated 350F oven (middle rack)
- In one bowl, sift the self-raising flour (or all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp. of baking powder) and the salt. Set aside. In another bowl. add the egg, olive oil and yogurt and mix with a whisk until thoroughly amalgamated. Now gradually add the flour into your wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Begin kneading the dough with your hands when almost all the flour has been added to your wet ingredients. Your dough should be smooth, pliable and only stick a little bit. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve.
- Pre-heat your oven. In another bowl, add the egg, crumbled Feta, ricotta and grated Graviera cheeses. Add the nutmeg, fresh ground pepper and finely chopped mint and now mash and mix with a spoon.
- Place your dough on your work surface and roll it out into a long thin log. Cut the dough into pieces the approximate size of a small egg. Roll into a ball and flatten in the palm of your hands. Now place the flattened dough on your work surface and continue to flatten the dough with the palm of your hand until you have a round, thin disc. Place a tsp. of the filling in the middle of the dough and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Pinch the dough to seal the pie and then crimp the rounded side with a fork. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat until dough and filling are used up.
- In a bowl, beat the yolks with a couple of Tbsp. of cream and then brush the tops of your cheese pies. Sprinkle the tops of the pies with sesame seeds and place in your pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- You may store the Tyropitakia in a container for up to 5 days. Serve as a snack or buffet offering.
* You may also have a look at my friend Peter’s similar recipe here.
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