Greek Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pies)

A tiropita is a Greek pastry of filo dough filled with cheese. This version, filled with herbed goat cheese and luscious olives, makes an elegant hors d’oeuvre, and you can make them in small finger-food size, to pass with cocktails, or larger, to eat on a plate with a fork for a festive brunch. Make sure to defrost the filo dough in the refrigerator overnight. You can assemble these ahead of time, but don’t bake them until just before your party; that way, they’ll be at their best.

Ingredients

Greek Tiropita

  • 2 cups (about ½ pound) mild, young, soft, crumbled goat cheese, preferably Nettle Meadow garlic and olive oil
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup roughly minced fresh dill (about ¼ of a big bunch)
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup pitted green Castelnuovo olives or black Kalamata olives, drained and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ¼ cup butter, preferably cultured
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound (1 box) filo dough, defrosted in the refrigerator

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats (do not spray with nonstick vegetable oil spray or coat with oil).
  2. Make the filling: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, creme fraiche, eggs, dill, pepper, oregano, and thyme and mix very well until completely blended. (You can blend the filling in a food processor if you prefer an ultra-smooth filling.) Then add the olives, stir gently so they do not break apart, and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, oil, and bay leaves over medium heat until the butter begins to foam. Remove from the heat and stir as the mixture comes to room temperature. Remove the bay leaves.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over your work surface and place 1 sheet of filo dough on it. Cover the remaining filo sheets with a layer of parchment paper and then a damp kitchen towel (see Kitchen Tips). Working quickly with a long sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the filo sheet: if you are making 20 larger hors d’oeuvres, cut it in half lengthwise, but if you are making 56 small hors d’oeuvres, cut it into 4 strips. Brush the entire filo sheet liberally but carefully, with the butter and oil mixture.
  5. Place the dough on the work surface so that it faces perpendicularly to you. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling about 1 inch from the top right-hand corner of one of the strips (any more and it will spurt out when it cooks). Grasp the top right corner and, as if you were folding a flag, fold the dough diagonally toward you over the filling, so the right top corner touches the left side. It will make a long trapezoid shape. Fold it over again, left side to right, continuing to the end of filo strip, until you have a triangular pastry. Place the triangle, open-fold-side down on the prepared baking sheet and cover with a large sheet of parchment paper while you make the next triangle. As soon as you have one baking sheet filled, place it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until light chestnut brown in color. Or, if you prefer, you can freeze at this point and bake from frozen, but it will take about 30 to 35 minutes. Finish cutting, filling, and folding the remaining filo sheets and bake.

Kitchen Tips

  • These will keep for a day or two, wrapped in foil and refrigerated, but they will be soggy. Tasty, but soggy.
  • Filo will dry, break, and crumble away if it is left out of the package uncovered. The trick is to balance keeping it moist without getting it wet. If it is wet, it will clump. You may find that it will clump in places if you keep it too long in the refrigerator after it has defrosted. Follow the package instructions advice about defrosting. I find that the parchment paper allows just enough moisture through to keep the filo sheets workable, but you have to keep it covered.
  • Traditionally, a 1-pound box of file contains about 28 sheets. Each sheet is 12 inches by 17 inches. You will need 28 sheets for this recipe. Know, however, that filo sheet sizes not only vary by company, but they have changed over the past few years, so be flexible about sizes and such and use your common sense.

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