During this COVID-19 pandemic, my son has been taking care of his Mama. Every week he receives my grocery list by email, shops, and delivers. Last week I had frozen phyllo dough on the list. I received a text message, "Mom, there's no phyllo on the shelves." I thought, "wait,
maybe I can make my own phyllo". I have the time and need the exercise.
Just like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, "I made fire!". After an hour or two of rolling, I exclaimed, "I made phyllo!". Actually, it's not that difficult. The dough is easy. It's the rolling that actually made my muscles ache with pride the following day. The project was a lot of fun though.
I combed through my digital files to revive my recipes from a Greek class I gave about 7 years ago. Low and behold I found my memorable and healthful Spanakopita triangle recipe with Tzatziki. These days I have been fermenting my own yogurt too! I didn't have cucumbers, so I substituted celery. Equally delicious.
The trick to making successful stretchy phyllo dough, is to let it rest for over an hour or even longer before rolling. Another tip is to roll it paper thin, so that you can actually see through it. My Mom taught make how to make pirogies (kreplach) with similar dough. She stressed that the secret to her sought after kreplach was to roll the dough so thin that you can actually see your hand through it. Keep the rolled dough covered with a slightly moist towel when not in use. Otherwise it will dry out.
And so it goes. I made Spanakopita from scratch and presented it at my weekly ZOOM dinner, with my close friends across Canada. My polite buddies went ooh and ahh. I'm not sure they actually understood the feat achieved to accomplish this flakey buttery tasting dough. By the way, I add a touch of butter to avocado oil to keep the saturated fat to a minimum, while keeping that buttery taste.
After rolling 15 sheets, I had two phyllo sheets left. What to do? I could have prepared them for the freezer, rolling flat in-between parchment paper. Nope, I decided to make a wonderful mini apple walnut strudel to enjoy with ice cream for dessert.
Working with phyllo is fun. It's the rolling of the dough and the time it takes to form triangles that's challenging. The taste of homemade phyllo dough is more delicate than the commercial variety of phyllo, a tender flakey texture. The labour of love is so worth it. Go ahead, give it a go and make your own phyllo.
Hand Rolled Phyllo Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
5 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F (43 degrees C))
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Place 2 cups flour in a mixing bowl or I used an electric mixer with dough hook. If mixing by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour. Drizzle in olive oil and add salt; add white wine vinegar and warm water. Mix until dough just comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly floured work surface.
Knead until dough is smooth, using just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the work surface or your hands, 2 or 3 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is supple and elastic, about 5 more minutes. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.
Divide dough into 12 (40 gram) portions using a kitchen scale; roll each portion into a ball. Place on plate and cover with plastic wrap or a slightly moist towel to prevent dough balls from drying out while you begin to roll them out. Work in batches of 5.
Mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons flour together in a bowl. Dust a work surface and the first dough ball with the cornstarch mixture. Flatten out the dough ball and roll out into a circle, about 5 inches in diameter. Dust again with cornstarch mixture. Set circle to one side. Roll out 4 more dough balls to about the same diameter and stack them on the first one, dusting each layer with more of the cornstarch mixture to keep them from sticking together.
When you have 5 circles, roll out the stack to a larger circle about double in size, turning as you go to maintain a round shape. Separate each layer and lay out the circles. Re-apply more cornstarch mixture where needed and restack them. Roll again until the 5-layer stack is paper thin, about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Place on a sheet of parchment paper; top with another piece of parchment. Gently roll up the dough; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
Repeat with the remaining balls of dough in batches of 5.
Lemony Spanikopita Triangles with Tzatziki
Makes about 24
1 teaspoon olive oil 1 large onion 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1 10-ounce package spinach 4 ounces low fat feta cheese, crumbled 250 g ricotta cheese 2 eggs, beaten to blend 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled rind of a lemon 3 tablespoons avocado oil mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter (mix in a separate small bowl for brushing phyllo) Phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach until it wilts and dries slightly. Cool mixture slightly.
Combine spinach mixture, feta, ricotta, eggs, oregano and lemon rind.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
Lightly dot one piece of phyllo with avocado oil with butter mixture. Lay another piece and dot, and then lay another piece for three layers of phyllo. Cut horizontally into 3 strips. Then put a couple of tablespoons of the mixture at the bottom of each strip and fold upwards diagonally until you have a triangle. Place the triangles on a parchment covered baking sheet. Repeat until the filling is used. Then brush each triangle with a bit of the avocado oil butter mixture.
Bake until phyllo is golden brown and filling is heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
2 cups Greek or any plain yogurt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated or minced cucumber
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Make Tzatziki: Squeeze excess moisture from cucumber. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, cucumber and vinegar or lemon juice. Stir in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.