Most people run away at the thought of working with phyllo dough, but once you get used to it it is really easy to work with, and the possibilities are endless. I always have some on hand in my freezer, usually pre-cut into squares, so that when I unexpectedly have to go somewhere with an appetizer or dessert, it’s really easy to throw together a quick filling, pop the squares into muffin tins, bake, fill, and go. Crab dip, cheesecake, and buffalo chicken – bleu cheese bites are some of my go-tos. They even make mini phyllo cups nowadays that are even easier, although to me nothing beats brushing the individual sheets with butter and getting that flaky, tender texture that melts in your mouth.
In Greek, spanakopita literally means “spinach pie”. It’s one of my favorite foods that I can’t get enough of and a staple in Greek cuisine. You can’t go to a Greek or Mediterranean restaurant without seeing spanakopita on the menu. They’re made of sautéed spinach, garlic, and onion mixed with feta and parmesan, all wrapped up in warm, buttery phyllo dough. What’s not to like??? I don’t skimp out on these and pop them in muffin tins. They are worth the effort to roll out into those triangles, wrapping the filling in all the flaky goodness.My recipe is a little bit creamier than others; I prefer to not just taste creamed spinach and onion in my pastry. Most recipes use fresh shallots, parsley, and dill, and honestly most of the time I don’t have anything better than the dried herbs and regular white onions. I don’t find it tastes any worse and it’s certainly cheaper and more readily available on short notice. I put more cream cheese in than most recipes, and while some recipes use farmers or cottage cheese, using that with more cream cheese would make it a soupy mess. Instead I use goat cheese, which gives these a more interesting flavor, and blends perfectly with the tangy parmesan and feta.
When working with phyllo dough, the key is to either work fairly quick, or cover the dough with a damp towel. And butter. You will use A LOT of butter 😊 About a stick and a half of melted butter per batch is completely normal. After unrolling the sheets of dough and preparing your workspace, every layer is brushed with butter. Some people cut in half of the butter with oil, which is fine but don’t use all oil, or your pastries will burn! From start to finish you can make these in about two hours, one of which is letting the filling firm up in the fridge. I wouldn’t layer the phyllo dough ahead of time, because it will dry out and flake all over, but once the layers are buttered, you do have a while to work. I generally do 6 sheets at a time, brushed with butter and stacked, then cut into eight squares. I drop spoonfuls of filling onto each, then fold each square like a flag, and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Then I just keep repeating the process. This recipe makes a lot, so more than likely you will have filling leftover to freeze along with the phyllo dough. I prepared half the filling for this batch, and it made about 40 spanakopita. If you have any leftover, or you just want to do it all at once, they freeze just fine and you can pop them out the next time you need them, all ready to go!