Saturday, 16 February 2013

Assyrian Spinach Pies ~ Syrian Sabanrhiyat

It was twenty years ago today.... no, that was Sgt. Pepper. 

Five years ago, Tanna and Karen decided that they wanted an intimate bread baking group, much like a knitting group or book club, but centred around the love and the baking of bread from scratch. They soon had a group of a dozen and, to my great joy, brought me into the fold months later.

It is so wonderful to be part of a cozy group that spans the globe. I have met only one Bread Baking Babe in person so far, but I look forward to eventually imposing on each and every Babe's hospitality. Because at this stage - we are no longer friends so much as we are family. One of the wonders of the internet age - the ability to become close to people in other climates and times zones.

Since Tanna spearheaded this group, it is seems fitting that she has chosen our anniversary bread - Assyrian Spinach Pies. These easy to make and delicious spinach pies are infinitely adaptable and each Babe has modified hers to her own tastes and available ingredients. Mine are fairly close to the original recipe - except that I used frozen spinach, the juice and zest of 2 lemons, and brushed the pies with melted salted butter, rather than spraying them with olive oil as the original recipe states.

We found them a joy to make and super delicious. I froze about 2/3 of them for quick appies for guests and we at the rest in a day and a half. I liked them hot, cold, and room temperature. They are just that good.

If you would like to bake along with us, check out My Kitchen In Half Cups - Tanna for details on how to become a Bread Baking Buddy.

Now, on to the pies!

Assyrian Spinach Pies  ~  Syrian Sabanrhiyat
(Somewhat adapted by me) Original Recipe By: Greg Patent: A Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes From America's Rich Immigrant Heritage
Yield: 24


1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast ~ 7gm
2 cups warm water (105° to 115°) ~ 480gm
1/2 teaspoon ground mahlab ~ 0.9gm
3 tablespoons flax seed, ground ~ 31gm
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed ~ 625gm +
2 tablespoons granulated sugar  ~ 25gm
2 teaspoons salt ~ 12gm
1/3 cup olive oil ~ 72gm

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil ~ 108gm
1 large yellow onion, chopped ~ 150gm
1 pound  cleaned baby spinach, coarsely chopped ~ 454gm (or frozen, thawed and squeezed)
1 cup  (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds ~ 87gm
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ~ 2.1gm
Melted butter for brushing
Plain yogurt for serving


1. Everyone into the pool. Put all the dough ingredients into the stand mixer.
Attach the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes more, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and just slightly sticky. The dough may not clean itself from the sides of the bowl. Scrape the bowl and dough hook, then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few strokes just to get a feel for the dough’s consistency.

2. WASH AND DRY THE BOWL  and rub it lightly with olive oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, turn to coat, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. When you press a finger into the dough and withdraw it, the depression will remain.

3. SCRAPE THE DOUGH onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 24 pieces (a scant 2 ounces each =57 grams). Shape into balls, arrange on the floured work surface, and cover loosely with kitchen towels. Let rest for 30 minutes. This will make the dough easy to roll.

4. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

5. PUT THE SPINACH into a large bowl, add the walnuts, pomegranate seeds, feta, lemon juice, and zest and the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil, and toss to combine well. Taste and add the pepper and salt if needed, keeping in mind that the feta is salty.

6. ADJUST AN OVEN RACK to the center position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two large cookie sheets (17 x 14 inches) with cooking parchment. Cut another sheet of parchment and set it aside (or line a third cookie sheet if you have one).

7. TO SHAPE THE PIES, roll a ball of dough into a thin 6-inch circle, flouring the dough and work surface lightly as necessary to prevent sticking. Pile 1/2 cup of the filling, loosely measured, onto the center of the circle, leaving about 1 inch of dough exposed all around. Brush the exposed dough lightly with water. Imagining the circle to be a clock, lift up the edges of dough at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions to cover the top part of the filling and pinch firmly to seal, going all the way to 12 o’clock. Lift the 6 o’clock position of dough to meet in the center and pinch the two edges firmly to seal. The seams will look like an inverted Y. Set the pie on one of the prepared sheets. Working quickly, form 7 more pies, placing them on the cookie sheet with a little space between them.

Brush with melted butter or olive oil.
BAKE @ 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.


Leftover pies can be frozen. When cool, arrange them on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer them to heavy-duty resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat, thaw the pies in their wrapping, then set them on a baking sheet and pop into a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


The Bread Baking Babes