Happy Anniversary to the Bread Baking Babes! They are celebrating five years of baking bread together. How cool is that??! I’ve only been a buddy for the past year but I have been secretly watching for much longer than that. I stumbled upon this group talented bakers by way of Susan at Wild Yeast. I love, love, love her site and was most intrigued with her small group of baking friends and now they are five years strong. Congratulations to you all!
The host for this special occasion is Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. She picked Assyrian Spinach Pies from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. I was so excited because for once I actually own this book. What a wonderful book it is! I keep telling myself that one day I will bake every recipe in the book…. oh- I was just letting my mind wander about this some more, let me get back on track. These hand pies are delicious with a bright, salty, almost tangy filling due to the addition of pomegranate seeds and feta. What is really interesting is the addition of Malhab , which is the pits of sour black cherries, which is added to the dough itself to add another layer of complexity. It was not able to find ground Malhab, only whole seeds, but they ground up into a powder very easily in my grinder. I have never used this spice before and am now looking forward to trying in some different baked goods. Isn’t always fun to be exposed to new things?
The shaping of this hand pie is the only slightly tricky part of this recipe. A piece dough is rolled out into a circle and then the filling is placed in the middle. You then bring up two sides of the dough, in the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position, pinching the dough together to firmly seal the edges so it now looks like the bottom part of a Y. Now bring up the bottom part of the dough (the 6 o’clock position) and pinch the dough together, making the top part of the Y. The first one seemed awkward but then it was quite fast to do after that. If you are intimated by this technique there is no reason why you couldn’t just shape it into a half-moon and seal the edges that way. Bake On!
Assyrian Spinach Pies
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Cups warm water (around 110F)
1 teaspoon ground mahlab (I increased this from 1/2 tsp)
5 Cups unbleached AP flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound fresh spinach, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 Cup (4 oz) chopped walnuts
1 Cup pomegranate seeds (I increased this from 1/2 cup)
1 Cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 oz)
1/3 Cup fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
To make the dough
Sprinkle the yeast and the ground malhab over 1/4 cup of the warm water. Whisk well to combine and then let it sit for 10 minutes to activate the yeast (it will get foamy during this time).
Place the flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the yeast mixture along with the remaining 1 3/4 cups water and the olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together and then let it rest for 5 minutes. If using a stand mixer like me, then attach the dough hook and knead on low-speed for 2 minutes. Adjust the speed to medium and knead for another 5 minutes. If you are kneading by hand, then place your dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough will still be slightly tacky.
Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This depends on the warmth of your kitchen. My house is usually on the chilly side so it takes the full 2 hours for me. It is ready when you press your finger into the dough and the impression stays.
Dived the dough into 24 pieces (I did 26). Shape them into balls and cover with a some tea towels. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
Saute the onion in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. You want them golden brown and tender. remove from the pan and set aside.
Place the chopped spinach, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, feta, lemon juice ,and the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil together. Add the sautéed onions and toss well to combine. Add the pepper and a pinch of salt if you think it needs it.
Preheat your oven to 375F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out the dough, fill with about 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture and shape as described above. Place them about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets, spraying them lightly with cooking spray (such as PAM).
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Prepare the remaining pies while the first batch is baking in the oven.
Serve warm or at room temperature. (Greg suggests serving these with plain yogurt but we had a side salad instead). After baking you can freeze these (ours didn’t last that long)
I found that I did run out of filling with 4 pieces of dough remaining so in my mini processor I whipped together a diced apple and some dried prunes. I added a splash of Calvados to loosen it up a bit and then threw in a handful of walnuts. I filled and folded as above and when they came out of the oven I drizzled them with a little confectioners icing. These were divine….
Please visit all of The Bread Baking Babes to check out their awesome work:
Bake My Day – Karen Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth Feeding my enthusiasms - Elle Life’s A Feast - Jamie Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya Lucullian Delights – Ilva My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna Notitie Van Lien – Lien Paulchens Foodblog – Astrid Provecho Peru – Gretchen