Tiropita, cheese pie, is not a dish I am usually interested in, and filo dishes in general are not what I get excited about. The exception to this is the round tiropita served in Skopelos. A long strand of cigar-shaped dough is wrapped around the filling and then wrapped around itself in a circle until it fills a plate, something that makes a moister dish than when it's layered, with a happier proportion of filling to filo. In Skopelos these round tiropitas are often cooked on top of the stove in a frying pan or on the griddle in a café, but they can be done in the oven as well. I’m giving the oven recipe, because everyone here has ovens, unlike in Greece, and I find it works nicely.
The circular version is a bit of a mystery to me, because although recipes and websites have you piecing together individual rolls of filo and winding them in a circle, this technique kind of blobs up more filo than there is in the actual Skopelos version. On the other hand, it works, and it gives you a circle. I have seen a YouTube version where a country woman rolls out one large (as in huge) circle of dough that then gets filled and tossed skillfully into place, and I can’t imagine even trying that myself, though I am a pretty experienced cook. If you don’t want to try the circle, which is eaten, shared or alone, by unwinding the circle from the outside in, make little S shapes for individual, appetizer-sized servings, which I like to do because, well, I can. And I tell myself that maybe it gives a bit more crisp on the outsides.
Here's my best approximation of the Skopelos pie. A pastry brush is pretty useful here. This recipe makes approximately eight servings. The round pie pictured at the top of the page is made from half a recipe, four sheets of filo, and could feed four as part of an appetizer course.
For the filling
- ½ lb feta
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 1 egg
And the filo
- 8 sheets filo* (16 by 12 inches), defrosted if frozen
- ¼ lb unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or ½ cup olive oil
* The tricky part of working with filo is that it becomes brittle when it’s left out in the air, even for a minute. Work with one sheet at a time, buttering (or oiling), filling it and rolling it up quickly, while the rest of the filo sheets are kept rolled and covered, traditionally done with a damp kitchen towel.
- Preheat the oven to 400 and spread or brush a tablespoon of oil/melted butter on a large baking sheet.
- Combine the feta, yogurt, and eggs just until smooth. You can use a blender or a food processor, or force the feta through a fine sieve, or crumble as finely as possible with your fingers and then combine with the yogurt and eggs, stirring until smooth.
- To assemble the tiropita, open a filo sheet out flat.
If you’re making the round pie: With a knife or a pair of scissors, cut a strip of filo an inch wide off the first sheet, roll the strip back up gently and place it back under the damp towel. This will be used later to piece the long tiropita together.
- Brush the filo sheet with a teaspoon of the oil or melted butter.
- Fold it in half carefully, widthwise, so that the previously long edge is now the shorter one. For the round pie, immediately take a second sheet of filo, brush with oil/butter, fold it in half the same way, and lay it next to the first half with the short ends overlapping slightly.
- Again, brush the top (of each sheet) with a half teaspoon of oil/butter.
- Place a line of the cheese mixture along the long side of the rectangle, starting about a half inch from the end and finishing about a half inch from the other end. If you like using a pastry bag, use a 1⁄3-inch plain tip. Or, just use a spoon and your finger, making the line about a third of an inch wide. This recipe is for 8 pieces of filo, so use about an eighth of the mixture per sheet.
- Starting from the filled end, roll the pastry into a narrow cylinder and then brush it lightly but evenly with oil/butter.
- Repeat until all the sheets are finished and you have either 8 shorter cylinders or 4 longer ones.
For S Shapes
Gently curl one end around once or twice, up to the middle of the cylinder, and brush it with butter/oil. Curl the other end around once or twice in the opposite direction to make an S-shaped spiral and brush that part with butter/oil. Use a spatula to transfer the filled cheese roll to a baking sheet. Repeat, lining the rolls up side by side on the sheet.
Bake for twenty minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
For a Round Pie
Place one of the pieces in the center of the buttered baking dish and wrap it around itself like a snail. Place a second piece right next to it, cut a piece from the strip of filo you cut and saved earlier, and wrap it around the two pieces, binding them together, and then continue wrapping the tiropita around itself, repeating the connecting strips for the next two pieces, so that you have one long coiled pastry cylinder. Don’t worry if it seems imperfect. It is, but if handled carefully, gravity and butter (or oil) will keep it together. Brush the whole thing lightly with butter/oil, bake for about 25 minutes until brown and crisp, and slide it carefully onto a serving dish.
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