22 January 2011

Opening phyllo for a coiled spinach pita

Up until now I have only seen phyllo made by Greek ladies but today I had the opportunity to see how it is done by Lude Majkofci, who comes from Kosovo. The method she uses below results in a pita looks just like the pita that is made in Kozani, Greece.

Lude only uses a mix of water, flour and salt for her dough. She mixed

1 kilo all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt and
2 1/2 cups warm (not hot) water.

Here in Germany she uses Type 550 or 405 flour; today she used Type 405. (Type 405 is equivalent to pastry flour; Type 550 is like all-purpose.) She mixed the ingredients into a dough with a large wooden spoon. The final product had a consistency where it could take the flour away from the sides of the bowl but it was still a little sticky to the touch. She kneaded the dough for 3 min on the countertop. The dough did not stick to her fingers, but it was still sticky to the touch.


She divided the dough into 3 balls, kneaded each ball for 1 min and then let each of the soft mounds rest in plastic bags for 30 min. This is the minimum rest time. I asked her if the dough could rest for hours, and she said yes, but not overnight. At this time she made the filling for the pita. I guess I might as well give the recipe for this too.




For the filling:
1/2 kilo spinach
1 bunch of green onions
2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp olive oil
250 g yogurt
370 g Schmand (I think the closest thing in the U.S. would be sour cream, 20% fat content).

Lude cut the spinach stems thinly and the leaves more widely, about double the width of the stems. At this point she washed the spinach. She told me that if I was looking to divide up the work involved in pita making I could leave the cut spinach a day ahead of time and leave it in a bowl overnight. She then cut a bunch of green onions. She halved the white parts and then cut both the white and green parts thinly. She mixed in the rest of the ingredients and then spread them around the edges of the pita. At home Lude uses sunflower seed oil in her filling.


Now, back to the dough. After letting the dough rest she placed it onto a floured surface and flattened it with her fingers. It's not a problem if the dough has become stuck to the plastic bag. Just carefully peel it away. Lude then rolled the dough out to be fairly large. First she just rolled it "the standard way", the way you'd roll out pie crust, for example. Then, then she rolled out the dough by first winding it over the rolling pin. I've seen variations of this technique used for rolling phyllo dough before. This process is challenging to describe, but the video is really helpful!


video
After rolling out the dough a bit the usual way...
1. Place a thin rolling pin at the base of circle closest to you.
2. Fold the bottom edge of the dough around the rolling pin. Continue to roll the dough up around the rolling pin away from you. Lude rolled most of the dough around the pin.
3. Press very lightly on the dough in the central part of the rolling pin. Then at the same time that you move the rolling pin in a rocking motion that goes gently away from you, then close to you, away from you, close to you, move your hands from the center of the rolling pin out toward the edges.
4. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and unroll all the dough off of your now-larger circle. You rotate the dough, so when you repeat the process again starting from step 1, you're not starting to roll from the same edge of the circle.

video
After rolling out the dough Lude spread some sunflower oil on the dough and spread it around by folding and unfolding the dough. I thought this was very elegant! She then pulled out the edges of the circle with her fingers to make this large circle of dough even larger. At the end of this process the circle's diameter was just a little smaller than the width of my kitchen island. The width of the kitchen island is about 80 cm (32 inches).


video
To make the pita, or as they say in Kosovo a pite, Lude placed her filling in clumps around the edge of the giant circle. Then she spread out the clumps so that the filling was in the shape of a ring around the edges of the circle of dough.

video
She rolled the edges of the dough over the filling and then pulled this folded edge toward her. She went around the circle doing this. Then she did it again, rolling the edge of the dough away from her, and then pulling the dough toward her. The phyllo became so thin that in places it became transparent. I could actually see the kitchen counter through the dough.

Lude went around the circle doing this until the dough broke apart in the middle and became a closed-end rope, a loop! She then shook the loop a few times so that the loop and its contents would be as homogenous as possible.


video
After oiling the pan with 2 tsp oil she placed the loop into the pan in a very elegant manner. Two loops of dough fit into my large oven pan. She elegantly folded in the end of the rope of dough.

video
Before baking Lude spread the surface of the pita with 2/3 of a mix she made with

30 g Schmand
1 Tbsp cold water
and I forget the third ingredient. Oil? yes, I think it was 1 Tbsp of oil

With the third loop that we made, we decided to make a smaller coiled pita. Lude cut the loop, placed one end into a smaller baking pan and coiled the rest of the loop around until it had filled the pan. Below she is spreading the surface of this pita with the Schmand mix.

















We baked the larger pita at 275 °C (525 °F) for 16 minutes. Here in Germany we used the (Oberhitze/Unterhitze) setting, in which there are two heating elements, one on the top of the oven , and one on the bottom of the oven. The oven had been pre-heated but it had not yet reached 275 °C when we put it in. After 16 minutes the top looked done but the bottom of the pita had not yet browned, so we lowered the temperature to 230 °C (440 °F) and only used the Unterhitzen (bottom heating) oven setting until the bottom of the pita had lightly browned. When we baked the smaller pita, we started off with a high temperature, and then lowered it when the top looked done. My oven is electric, but when Lude makes this at home on her gas oven she rotates the pan too so the the pita is cooked as evenly as possible.

The final products were gorgeous. The texture of these pitas were unlike the Greek pitas with homemade phyllo that I've had. The phyllo was not as crispy due to the Schmand-mix spread of top of the pita before baking. Note the clever way of cutting the larger pita.

Here is a close up of the phyllo, a few days after the pita was baked:

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to see Lude live-in-action. She worked phenomenally quickly and was a real wonder to watch.

2 comments:

  1. interesting that she does not use olive oil in the pastry - i always add a bit in my filo

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  2. My mother has always made pita a little different when it came to the rolling she would put the spinach all over then cut the whole circle in half and roll it then. This seems like a easier and less time consuming way. Thanks.

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