Recipe Source: Patent, Greg. A Baker's Odyssey. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, 2007 pp. 166 - 7.
Right before the big camping event we took recently, we evaluated our planned menu and determined that it was a little scant. (Certain people allege that they later retracted that determination. If true, it didn't matter. I was already feeling inadequate about the amount of food.) I cast about for something I could make that wouldn't require a lot of extra trips to the store, and came up with this recipe. It was not medieval, but there was nothing in it that was specifically not-medieval. It had the added advantage of being relatively cheap and combining vegetables (my personal obsession) and starch (which fills people up.)
I have got to say that anything that could go wrong with this recipe did go wrong. Cutting up the dough into little balls was a waste of time, since they just oozed back into each other like The Blob. Likewise, rolling out all the dough into circles ahead of time just resulted in loud obscenities and frustration. I suspect that part of the problem was with me - I had committed to helping a friend pick up a gaggle of children from different day cares, and I was desperate to get it done before I left. Had I waited until I got home that night, I suspect things would have gone easier. (And picking up the kids was absolutely 100% worth it.) As it was, I found that folding the pies into little triangles was too fiddly and I didn't have time for it. Instead I folded them up into half-moon like shapes, which was good. I ran out of time and had to ask my husband to take over. He did admirably, and by the time I got home the breads were all finished and happy.
I made a few changes. First, I doubled the recipe. When we do these dinners we rarely know how many people to expect and I wanted to be prepared. Secondly, I omitted the pomegranate seeds, because it was July and I had no pomegranates. (This is a pity, because pomegranate is the best fruit ever and would have been perfect here.) The procedural changes I've already discussed above, although I've included both types of pie here. The result was a delicious side dish that satisfied pretty much everyone. People were able to grab a little pie to snack on while out and about during the day, and we cut up the larger pies to feed more people during the dinner that night (thank you Carol for the suggestion.)
Assyrian Spinach Pies (serves 40; approx. $0.55/serving)
4 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
4 cups warm water, divided
1 teaspoon ground mahlab (available in Greek and Middle Eastern groceries, or in my Amazon store under "food." This is an important flavor component in the dough and you should really use it if you can.)
10 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 lb baby spinach, chopped
2 cups chopped walnuts
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons black pepper
- Stand mixer
- Medium mixing bowl (or an additional bowl for your stand mixer)
- Large mixing bowl
- Rolling pin
- Saute pan or wok
- Cookie sheets
- Make the dough in two batches unless you're doing this in a commercial stand mixer (hence the two bowls mentioned in equipment.) These instructions will be given for two batches.
- Sprinkle 2 1/4 teaspoons of the yeast into 1/4 cup of the warm water. Add 1/2 teaspoon mahlab and stir well.
- Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes, until the yeast is proofed. Repeat for the remaining yeast and mahlab.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine 1/2 the flour, 1/2 the sugar and 1/2 the salt.
- Add half the remaining warm water (1 3/4 cups) and 1/3 cup olive oil.
- Add one of the yeast mixtures and knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes.
- Increase to speed 5 and knead 3 - 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and just slightly sticky.
- Turn this mixture into a lightly oiled bowl (per equipment above) and repeat for the remaining dough ingredients.
- Cover both dough bowls with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
- When the dough has risen, cut the dough into 48 individual pieces, shape into balls, and let sit another 1/2 hour at room temperature covered by kitchen towels.
- To make the filling, heat the 5 tablespoons olive oil in the saute pan over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, until golden.
- Transfer the onions to the large bowl. Add the spinach, walnuts, feta and lemon juice. Mix well. I promise that if you are using fresh spinach, the spinach will not make the pies soggy.
- Preheat your oven to 375 and prepare your cookie sheets according to your preference. They do not need to be greased.
- Roll out a circle of dough to a diameter of about 6 inches on a lightly floured surface.
- Spoon some of the filling into the center of the dough. Fold over the dough and press to seal firmly around the edges. Repeat until all the remaining dough has been used.
- Bake 25 - 30 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy.