Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Spiral

How do you know that your man loves you? Well, I guess there are different criteria for different people. For me, it is when he joins me to a Woody Allen marathon at a downtown Athens movie theater and stands to watch three films in a row. It is when he comes home from work, having stopped first by a bookstore, and handing me ten cookbooks that he thinks I would love.

It was when he let my cat take a nap on his chest even though he was (and still is) allergic to cats. It is when he gets up in the middle of the night to put socks on my feet when I complain that I'm cold. It is when he puts up with Sunday mornings spent at food festivals.

Food festivals may as well be a sort of a nightmare for S, or so he claims. I have a sneaking suspicion that he secretly enjoys them but that he's just too apprehensive to admit it because he knows I'll drag him to even more events. So, last weekend I dragged him to yet another food fest, in Rotterdam this time.
What's so bad about food fests anyway? Ok, it might be just a tad annoying being around people who are constantly oohing and aahing over the sight of baby courgettes and the latest yield of fresh garlic, but you get to go where the good food is. And S loves his food.

Is it bad to walk around a place and suddenly see this in front of you? Um no, not in my book. S is a hard-core carnivore so his heart skipped a bit when he spotted it and he certainly didn't mind the fact that loads of sausages were being sold and grilled around there as well.

When we arrived in front of a beer stall that sold the locally brewed beer Pelgrim (the only brewery in Rotterdam) well, I think I saw a few tears in his eyes. That beer was so good. I, on the other hand, got excited when I caught a glimpse of all the cheese over at the cheese stands (I can't help it, I'm such a cheese fiend), drooled over the local honey (it was good but Greek honey is better), I perused the chocolate stalls for more than fifteen minutes lusting after all the chocolate candies and chocolate lollies (I couldn't help but buying a few, even if they did cost 1.20 euros a piece!) and I checked out the bread stalls, sampling pieces from various loaves and managing to restrain myself and buying only one.

Speaking of bread, I'm sure you have been feasting you eyes on these little beauties over here. Now that's what I call bread—Greek bread, Greek feta-filled bread, Greek bread from Mount Pelion in Central Greece. That gorgeous, bountiful area of Greece that produces one of the best varieties of apples called "firikia", a rare variety of wild grapes called "strawberry grapes", mushrooms and truffles, chestnuts and chestnut honey, wine, the tastiest "spoon desserts" (preserved fruit or vegetables) and the most robust-flavored and delicious sausages made from goat, sheep and pork meat.

This spiral-shaped, feta-filled, white Greek bread or "Tyropsomo" (cheese bread) as it is called in Greek is amazing. When I was growing up, I remember these being sold at every local bakery in Athens but unfortunately, nowadays, they are scarce. They have been substituted by "easy", ready-made breads, rolls and cheese pies that are so generic they taste exactly the same no matter which bakery you buy them from.

These over here though are completely different; these are the real thing. These individual coiled breads are 13 to 15 centimeters in diameter but they can also be baked as a large coil. The dough is a cinch to prepare and the feta, well; the feta is simply crumbled into a beautiful filling. Use your hands for this. There's nothing better than licking your fingers right after you've crumbled some feta. The crumb of the bread has a soft, fluffy texture and an airy, light quality, and the crust is pleasantly, but not overly, crunchy.

This snail-looking bread is filled with a generous amount of feta and that is what makes it special. It is not a plain bread that you use to mop up sauces of stews and braises (though you can) but more of a breakfast bread, a lunch bread, a bread that you can eat on its own (as another Greek cheese pie) or accompanied by a salad to make the ideal light dinner.

Eaten straight out of the oven, while the feta is still melted and luscious, is divine. Eaten the next morning, just before heading out to work, is even better. Eaten with a side of late summer tomatoes (these tomatoes rock!) with olive oil, sprinkled with Greek dried oregano and paired with red onions, is perfection. Eaten in the form of a sandwich, filled with rocket leaves and a hint of balsamic or red wine vinegar, is like you've died and gone to heaven. Is there anything more you can ask of a spiral of bread?

Tyropsoma (Greek individual feta-filled bread coils / spiral breads)
Adapted from Vefa's Kitchen

You can make these breads either by hand or with the help of a stand mixer. I prefer kneading the dough by hand since I feel I have a better handle on it.
These breads doesn't need a lot of work but they do need a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes proofing time.
You can either make four individual bread spirals, like I did, or make one large spiral.

Yield: 4 coiled breads, around 15 cm in diameter each

175 g strong bread flour
175 g all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
7 g instant yeast
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil plus extra for greasing the bowl and brushing the breads
120 ml lukewarm full-fat milk
1 egg white (from a medium-sized egg)
5 Tbsp (75 ml) lukewarm water
400 g feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg yolk (from a medium-sized egg)
1 ½ Tbsp sesame seeds

Special equipment: fine sieve, pastry brush, rolling pin, 30 x 30 cm (or a little smaller) square baking tray, baking paper

Sift together into a large bowl the strong bread flour, the all-purpose flour and the salt. Add the sugar and dried yeast and stir with a spoon.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the olive oil, the milk, the egg white and the water. Begin mixing the ingredients by hand by bringing the flour slowly towards the liquids, incorporating them and forming a soft, sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 7 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. It's ok if it's ever-so-slightly (but no more than that) sticky.

Note: I hate to say this but not all flours are the same. The amount I used might not be enough for your dough to become smooth and elastic. So don't worry if you need to add a little more flour or even add a little more lukewarm water if your dough turns out a bit too firm. What is important is that your dough doesn't become too firm (because it will not rise properly) or too sticky. It must be smooth and elastic.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with olive oil using a pastry brush, shape the dough into a ball and put it inside the bowl. Brush the surface of the dough with a little olive oil and cover the bowl with a tea towel. Place the bowl in a warm place (I placed it just above the open door of my oven, with the oven turned on to 150 degrees Celsius) for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface, punch it down and using a knife, cut and divide the dough into four equal pieces. Using your hands, shape them into cylinders and then using a floured rolling pin, roll them out into a strip (11 cm wide, 42 cm long, 0.3 cm thick).

Place ¼ of the feta along the center of each strip lengthwise. Dampen the edges of the dough with a little water using your fingers, fold and pinch the edges together around the cheese to form four long rolls.

With the seam side down, wind the roll to form a coil and tuck the end of the roll under the edge of the coil. Keep the coil ever-so-slightly loose to aid in the final rise. Do the same with the rest three rolls. Line the baking tray with baking paper and place each spiral onto the baking tray, spaced apart and seam side down.

Brush the tops and sides of the spirals with a little olive oil, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Beat the egg yolk with 1 tsp tap water in a small bowl and once breads have proofed, brush the tops and sides with it. (If you want your cheese breads to have a light-colored crust then skip the egg wash and instead sprinkle them with a little water). Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and place the baking tray on the lower rack of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then move tray onto the middle rack of the oven and bake breads for 30 more minutes. You may want to put a piece of aluminum foil on top of the spirals because the egg wash will make them turn golden brown in no time. In case you skip on the egg wash then you'll probably not need the aluminum foil. Just keep an eye on them because they might catch, either on top or on the bottom.

When breads are ready, take them out of the oven, out of the tray and onto a wire rack to cool.

Eat them when they have slightly cooled.
They keep very well until the following day, I wouldn't suggest reheating them though. They are best eaten at room temperature the next day.


  1. Oh, you know this has been added to the bread I NEED to make list!! :)


  2. Magda - Wow! They are not only beautiful as photos but beautifully crafted! Perfectly executed! Brava! (Color me jealous...) As it is hard to bake bread when it is 100 outdoors, I will wait till November to try these at home...

  3. These look gorgeous. I surely would love one for breakfast.

  4. The spiral sausage seems like a great inspiration! Lucky you and lucky man. =)

  5. Sues, David, Ivy — thanks!

    Belinda — you mean bread... thanks!

  6. Read this one three times and will read it five more before the end of the day. Got a new little baby girl in the house, so can't promise you I'll make this any time soon, but it's on my hit list for first rainy day baking day. Cheers!

  7. You are my hero. Seriously. This couldn't be more perfect for a sandwich. Just slice and top with tomatoes and onion. I LOVE that the cheese is already nestled inside. What a treasure. If I owned a sandwich shop, this would be on the menu and I think it would have to be called "The Magda" :)

  8. High Plains — your baby girl is so unbelievably cute! I hope you enjoy this bread when you make it.

    Tracy — hahaha "The Magda". I don't know how "catchy" my name is for that to sell but, hey, put a photo next to it and I guess it will work ;) It does look good with those tomatoes and onions huh?

  9. This would be my dream bread! I can eat tons of feta smothered in olive oil (lebanese olive oil), with tomatoes; this was our breakfast and PM snack during childhood; but we never had this bread, so we did not know what we were missing. I want to make this or eat it, preferably both, as soon as humanly possible!

  10. I am being repetitive because I already wrote this on my blog, but I want to be sure you read it: thank you for your kind words. And I love, love, love this post. I am a feta fanatic.

  11. What a beautiful bread. I'm so glad I found your blog. I love the food and recipes you feature here and I'll be back often. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary.

  12. I've made cheese breads before but never a stuffed bread. How neat. Now that the oven is back on (even though it's surprisingly humid in Rome) this will go on my list of things to bake. And we have lots of guests rotating in and out to help us eat it.

  13. Oh my. . . this looks wonderful. I often eat crusty bread with feta in the morning but stuffed with feta? I'm in heaven already! Doreen

  14. Joumana — what's keeping you? Make it :)

    nuts about food — you're welcome!

    Mary — welcome and thank you

    Nicole — you're not gonna need a lot of help eating these breads. They are so addictive, you're going to want them all to yourselves!

    Doreen — try it, you're gonna love it!

  15. Yes, I've been feasting my eyes on this post. Gorgeous spirals--so impressed with your baking. The proofing time is not too long, so I know I'll have the patience to make these!

    I'm with Tracy--"The Madga" is a perfect sandwich.

  16. HI magda, you are definitely a pro in the breadmaking dept! Your spirals looks brilliant. I wanted to reach into the page and eat one! Might have to give these a go. Haven't made any bread in a while, my last attempt (in our newish oven) not so good. Will have to try again i think.

  17. What an exquisite roll. The bread looks very rich and delicious and the sandwich is divine!

  18. Your Tyropsomo looks amazing. Even more amazing, TEN books.

    I like Tracy's idea. "The Magda"--love it!

  19. Hi Magda, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! It is so sad the the easy 'generic' breads are taking over bakeries everywhere. Maybe if everyone tried a real home-made bread again they would realize what they are missing out on. This spiral bread looks delicious! I have recently gotten big into making my own breads. I will never go back to store-bought again ;) I can't wait to try these out when I get back home. Looking forward to more posts!

  20. The spiral tyropsoma look absolutely amazing! Perfect little breads and I am quite inspired to make them right now!

  21. Nancy — thanks!

    deb — yes, try them, you'll definitely be rewarded

    El — thank you

    Denise — yeah I'm a lucky girl :)

    sohdalex — that is so true. Making your own bread is so rewarding

    Maria — nice to see you back! :) Thanks!

  22. You make fantastic breads, beautiful to look at and better to eat! Τι κάνεις Μάγδα?

  23. Thank you so much Mariana! Μια χαρά είμαι, εσύ τί κάνεις; Από ό,τι βλέπω στο μπλογκ σου είσαι πολύ απασχολημένη τον τελευταίο καιρό με σεμινάρια και συμπόσια... όλα τόσο ενδιαφέροντα Μαριάνα. Σ' ευχαριστώ που πέρασες από εδώ :)

  24. Magda, this is gorgeous....I want to eat these right now! I will go find the recipe in Vefa's's a keeper!

  25. Thanks Peter :) Vefa's book is a real treasure. I just love it!

  26. καλέ ελληνίδα εισαι?
    οι συνταγες σου ειναι υπέροχες!
    κάνεις πολύ καλή δουλειά και χαίρομαι που πέτυχα το blog σου!
    θα έρχομαι συχνά για... επισκεψη! ^_^

  27. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! Your food looks amazing, and you must have some great lighting b/c your pictures turn out wonderfully!

    These spiral breads look tempting! And the idea of feta in the bread intrigues me. Maybe I'll try it while my hubby is out of town (he's not a big feta guy). I'm not even remotely Greek, but I like Greek food and I love history, and would would really like to go to Greece soon. We might be going there soon, since we are now stationed in Germany.

    What places would you recommend for about a 10 day trip for first timers? We also have two toddlers. We are used to traveling with them, but some places are less accessible than others with strollers, (hiking, etc.). Also, what time of year is best? Could you offer me some advice?

    Another question: Do you like myzithra cheese? I LOVE it with spaghetti and browned butter. If you are someone who likes it, do you have any other uses for it, or recipes that use it? Or could you for example use the soft kind in this recipe as opposed to feta? Also, where in Europe can you buy it, I haven't found any in Germany. Is there possibly a website you use that imports from Greece to EU? That way I could find myzithra, and other Greek ingredients as well!

    Thank you very much!

  28. Hi Magda!

    I just made these, and am eating half a bread topped with your Horiatiki Salad (but I used only tomatoes and onions because I was inspired by your picture above and thought more veggies would be an overkill) as I write this.

    You are a genius! This dish is exquisite!! Simple yet full of flavour! I haven't had a chance to taste a lot of Greek food yet, and your blog is my window of opportunity. I really like trying out and eating Greek food now :)

    1. Hi Jolene. I'm thrilled you liked the bread! I hope you enjoy the rest of the recipes as much as this one!

  29. Oh my goodness, this recipe is absolutely happening this weekend as well!! I am certain that my affinity for bread and feta stems from the few formative years I spent in Athens! I don't eat anything salty, aside from Feta, which is, admittedly, a huge weakness for me!

    1. Made a batch of these yesterday as well, and am currently enjoying my first one as my breakfast. DELICIOUS!

    2. Hi Raevyn. I am so glad you liked them :) Thanks for the feedback!