More, er, fun with phyllo dough

I was so excited for this week’s recipe. I freaking love spanakopita, but I’ve only ever enjoyed it store-bought because I was too afraid to mess with phyllo (or fillo) dough sheets, and I assumed they were really difficult.

So, I was relieved to find a Food Network recipe from Ina Garten that seemed like it would be fun and easy and had a pretty short prep time. Emphasis on seemed, because working with phyllo dough is a pain in the rear, to put it kindly.

Spanakopita ingredients

My first problem was that the spinach I had thawed in the fridge overnight was still not actually thawed. That meant I was already a bit rankled by the time I had to work with literally all 40 sheets of thin, fragile phyllo dough.

Here’s a brief synopsis of my thoughts while buttering and adding breadcrumbs atop each sheet. Well, almost each sheet, because I sometimes forgot the breadcrumbs, and OK, some sheets did stick together enough that I didn’t even try to separate them.

Thoughts:

  • Sheets 1-15: Oh god, oh god, oh god, and I’m less than one-quarter of the way through
  • Sheets 15-25: I got this, this isn’t so bad, oops I forgot breadcrumbs, oh well, I got this
  • Sheets 25-35: OK, this is getting old, getting the hang of it but starting to rush through, at least I’m over halfway
  • Sheets 35-40: F* it, whatever it takes to finish this up

Thankfully, the filling part, aside from the spinach snafu, was incredibly easy to piece together. And after what felt like hours but was probably actually less than one hour (I tried not to focus on the time), it was ready to go in the oven.

And, again, thankfully, the baking only took 12 minutes. After a brief cool down, and slicing, it was ready to eat, and I’ll be honest, it was heavenly. It was worth it, but also I’ll probably buy it more often than I take the effort make this delicious treat.

They really were so delicious, despite the pains of making them.

Here’s what I did, altering the recipe slightly:

Ingredients

  • ½ c. olive oil, plus more for coating the sheet pan
  • 1 bunch scallion, white and light green parts chopped
  • 2 (10 oz) boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 T. fresh dill (I used way more, but I love dill)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 40 sheets (1 box) of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge
  • 2 sticks butter, melted (I actually needed 2.5 so either brush lightly or, like me, admit you love butter more than is healthy)
  • ½ c. plain whole wheat breadcrumbs

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

(Here’s something I wish I’d done so adding it here for future use: Lay out the phyllo dough with a damp cloth underneath and on top on your work surface or a separate sheet pan. The ones that had been in the cloth longer worked more smoothly, and the original recipe just called for a damp cloth on top while you worked with the dough. I feel like the extra time while you prep the rest of the meal would help.)

Meanwhile, saute the scallions in the olive oil for about five minutes until soft. Set aside while you squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and then toss the drained spinach into a large bowl. Add the scallions, dill, eggs, feta, and salt and pepper, and stir until the eggs are beaten and the cheese is well mixed in.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, and place the breadcrumbs in a nearby small bowl.

Keeping the phyllo dough covered while you work, take one sheet of dough and brush it with butter. Top with a couple of pinches of bread crumbs. Repeat until you’ve used 10 sheets.

Then, place ¼ of the spinach mix along the long end of the dough sheets, like a fat and long sausage. Roll the spinach up in the dough to create a long baguette-like shape that’s about 1 to 2 inches thick.

Repeat until all the dough and all the spinach mix is used up so you have four baguette-like shapes. Place those filled dough pieces on a greased sheet pan that has edges.

Score the tops of the phyllo dough, and coat with butter one more time. (Yum!)

Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, cut along your scored edges, and enjoy little spanakopitas.

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