Tsimbites - Pinched Cheese Cakes
- For the phyllo pastry:
- 1 pound / ½ kilo (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ - 2 cups fresh strained orange juice
- 1 pound/ ½ kilo of Tinos Petroma cheese (see Note)
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
- Pinch of ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon Mastiha crystals pounded in a small mortar with 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 250 g (1 cup) sugar
- 2 - 3 eggs as needed
- 1-2 tbsp. Sugar for sprinkling on top
- Place the flour, olive oil and egg, slightly beaten, in a large mixing bowl. Work the mixture by hand until it becomes mealy. Drizzle in the orange juice in half-cup increments and work the dough, kneading, until it becomes smooth and firm. Set aside covered with plastic wrap for a half hour, or up to 1 day, refrigerated .
Make the filling
- Place the cheese, orange zest , cinnamon, vanilla, clove, mastiha, and sugar in a bowl. Add the first egg and mix it into the filling with a fork. The filling should be dense enough to keep its shape when formed into a little ball in the palm of your hands. Add the second egg and work it in. If the filling is still very dense, add the third egg, only if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/360F.
- Pinch off an orange-size piece of dough from the mass. Flatten it with your hands and start passing it through a pasta maker, starting from the widest setting and working down to setting #4, forming a long strip that is silky but sturdy and thin. Place this on a floured work surface and using a glass or cookie cutter, cut 4-inch circles out of the strip. Place the first one in the palm of your hand or on a flat work surface, and place a spoonful of the cheese mixture in the center. Bring the sides of the pastry up around the cheese filling and pinch and pleat as you go to shape little muffin-like pieces with pleated sides. Repeat the rolling and shaping with remaining pastry and filling.
- Place the tsimbites on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or sheets) and sprinkle the tops with a little sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until golden and set. Remove, cool, and serve.
Petroma is a soft, tangy cow’s milk cheese unique to the islands of Tinos and Andros. You can substitute it with a combination of ½ pound crumbled Greek feta, ¼ pound well-drained ricotta and ¼ pound cream cheese, mixed all together.