Feta Cheese Pie (Not) Baked in Embers!
When we witnessed this Feta Cheese Pie Baked in Embers, we were transfixed! This ancient way of baking over hot coals using a copper or steel dome as a makeshift portable oven is something that the shepherds of Epirus have been doing for hundreds of years, if not longer. The dome is called a gastro, and it is part of their panoply of kitchen equipment as they travel up and down the mountains from summer to winter abodes, carrying many of their worldly possessions with them. Amazingly, this is still a living tradition in Greece, if no longer on foot, then certainly by a pickup truck. We filmed this pie being made in the Pindus mountains. Knowing, of course, that it would be exceedingly difficult to reproduce this, say, in an urban or suburban setting, I’ve reworked the recipe as best as I could so that anyone, anywhere, can make it. It is one of the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of feta cheese phyllo pies, aka tyropita, made in Epirus and, indeed, all over Greece.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 cups water
- A pinch of salt
- 4 cups of Greek feta
- 1 ½ cups of extra virgin Greek olive oil plus more for topping the pie
Preheat the oven to 350F (170C). Combine the flour, vinegar, olive oil, and salt in a large bowl. Knead for a few minutes.
Add water to the flour mixture incrementally. Start kneading until the dough is soft and pliant but not sticky, about 10 to 12 minutes. During the mixing process, add additional water or flour as needed; water if it’s too dry, and flour if the dough is too wet and sticky.
Divide the homemade phyllo into 10 equal balls. Lightly oil a 15-inch round baking pan.
Roll out the first ball to a circle slightly larger than the circumference of the pan so that 2 inches (5 cm) of the dough’s edges hang over the periphery.
One by one, roll out each of the next 8 balls to a circle about the size of the inner periphery of the pan -there shouldn’t be an overhang on the interior layers. Layer them one by one inside the pan, brushing each with olive oil and sprinkling each with a half cup of crumbled feta. Only the bottom and the top layers don’t get sprinkled with cheese.
Roll out the final 10th ball to a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the circumference so that there’s an overhang. Using scissors or a knife, cut off the excess dough. Then join the top and bottom layers together and roll inwards to form a rim around the inside periphery of the pie. Sprinkle some water on the final layer of the pie.
Score the phyllo into serving-size pieces, brush the top layer with olive oil, and bake for about 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the phyllo is firm, set, and beautifully browned. If the interior layers aren’t fully baked, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the pie to prevent further browning while allowing it to bake until completely done. Remove and let cool for at least a half hour before serving.
Love savory pies and phyllo specialties? Sign up for my online class “Fearless Phyllo – Homemade!” to learn the secrets of making great, easy pies at home!