I don’t know about you, but two of my favorite hard to resist favorites are… Spanakopita and Buttery Soft Pretzels!
I had to make several pans of Spanakopita for a catering client and I ended up with some of the spinach cheese mixture left over. At the same time I was making soft pretzels to take to a friends house for a movie night with the girls.
Well, its like the TV commercial where the peanut butter falls into the chocolate and poof… reeses peanut butter cups were born. I made my soft pretzels and I made my Spanakopita but I had pretzel dough and spinach pie mixture left, so poof… Spanakopita Stuffed Soft Pretzels were born. I added a twist by incorporating fresh dill and parsley to the leftover pretzel dough. I also made an egg-wash that included a little fresh grated nutmeg. I think that Dill and Nutmeg are two ingredients in Spanakopita that give it that unique flavor that everyone loves.
First we are going to make the Pretzel Dough. Believe me when I tell you that baking anything with yeast always had me a little nervous. Worrying and watching the dough to see if the water you used to activate the yeast was too hot, therefore killing the yeast and ending up with a pancake instead of a nice round loaf of bread. Or, the water being too cold and the yeast never activating resulting in that same pancake looking loaf of bread.
But I found the secret to making the perfect dough and her name was April! OK, who is April and what does she have to do with overcoming my fear of yeast. Well, April came to work for me and her previous job of 5 years was managing a pretzel company. She showed me just how easy and forgiving yeast dough can be, never using a thermometer to test the water to activate the yeast. In addition, I learned once the dough it was so durable and once it was made could stay at room temperature for hours covered and it would be just fine. Yet the best part is any unused dough could be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen.
So a cheer to yeast and the endless recipes, I no longer fear that little ¼ oz packet… victory!
This opened up my world to baking, my forte when I began catering 30 years ago was always main food and desserts, not bread. Now I make all types of amazing bread products that are easy and I will share with you in our travels through my kitchen.
Basic Pretzel Dough (double recipe)
Prep time: 15 min
Proof & Cook time: 2 h
3 cups warm water (around 110º)
3 pkgs dry yeast
4 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tsp. salt
2 cups bread flour
6 cups all purpose flour
small bunch fresh parsley
small bunch of fresh dill
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp. Baking soda
kosher or Pretzel salt
2-4 tbsp. butter melted
Chop the parsley and dill in a small Cuisinart or by hand and set aside. In your stand mixer or bowl add warm water, sprinkle yeast and brown sugar mix well. Let stand for 5 min. then add salt and both flours. Start your kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook on low so the flour doesn’t fly out giving you a new powder foundation, lol! Let the mixer beat until dough forms a ball. If your mixer begins to struggle, turn it off, remove the dough and roll up your sleeves!
Knead the dough a few more minutes, add the dill, parsley mixture set aside an knead until herbs are incorporated into the dough. Rub a bowl with a little olive oil, place the dough in the bowl and roll to cover with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place. If you have a newer oven that has a proof setting (100º) put it right in the oven and close the door. Many people don’t know this but plastic wrap can go into an oven and not melt. Used traditionally for wrapping a casserole dish.
It works like this… the plastic forms a seal and then cause a steam effect which keeps the temperature at 212º, even if the temp in the oven is higher. In order to accomplish this, you must put a layer of foil over the plastic.
Let your dough rise for about and hour or two until it doubles in size. While dough is rising make the spinach pie mixture.
Spanakopita Filling: (double recipe)
2x 16oz bags chopped spinach (defrosted & drained) large Vidalia onion chopped fine
large bunch fresh dill (chopped fine)
freshly grated Nutmeg or 2 tsp. ground
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Chop onion in Cuisinart fine or hand chop fine, add half of fresh dill to Cuisinart and pulse 2 or 3 times.
Add mixture to a pan with olive oil on medium heat. Add nutmeg and stir to coat and cook for 15 min., then add the spinach and mix very well.
Cook an additional 5 minutes, remove from heat and place in a large bowl. Allow cooling for 15 minutes then add all 3 cheeses. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper before you add the raw egg. Once the seasoning is correct, add the eggs and mix well again.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Now with the pretzel dough and Spanakopita mixture in front of you, make a spot on a cutting board to roll out pretzel dough.
Pull off a 6-8oz piece of dough and roll into a long rope.Have a little flour on side for rolling pin if needed. Then take your rolling pin and flatten out the rope.
Place filling in center across the whole rope of dough. Bring up sides around spinach mixture and seal edges.
Make an egg wash mixture with:
2 eggs beaten
2 tbsp. Milk
dash of grated nutmeg
Brush the seal of the rope with egg wash, then shape into a pretzel or just a twist. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Brush top of pretzel with a generous amount of egg wash and sprinkle with kosher salt or Pretzel salt.
Place in a 350° oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
As soon as pretzels come out of the oven brush with melted butter. You will yield 24 pretzels with this recipe if needed for a party. Just cut the recipe in half if you don’t need that many.
I have to tell you that making a double recipe will not go to waste. These warm, soft, delicious buttery Spanakopita Pretzels are simply amazing. First, you get the flavor of the soft pretzel and then you take another bite and the flavor of traditional Spanakopita warms your mouth and has you wanting to eat more than one!!!