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Greek Bread and Pastry

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

After a recent weekend in Athens I rediscovered Greek food. I have always been a massive lover of traditional Greek salads, beautiful fresh salty feta cheese, capers, Kalamata olives, sweet juicy, ripe,  sunshine filled tomatoes, and of course its all about the dressing! Over the course of the weekend I had my fill of delicious salads but one thing I had been blind too was the popularity of pies, pastries and breads. As I read on the plane, on the flight out to Athens – “the Italians do pizza what the Greeks do with pastry”… so of course I had to investigate!

Yes breakfast in the hotel was a buffet including all the usual savouries and sweets. But spinach and feta pie and various other savoury and sweet filo pies were served every day. I spoke to a couple of people about their love for pastry and pies. One of the Greeks told me ‘what do you expect, the Greeks invented pastry…” Reading again an article: “Since the times of Ancient Greece, it was common making savoury pies as a snack or packed meal. At that time, the pies were prepared with various flours – barley, millet, oat, or rye. Initially, the filling of these pies were a mixture of legumes, cheese, garlic, and honey. Later, particularly in the countryside, the farmers started to add mixed vegetables and herbs into the stuffing.

It’s likely that the Spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) as we know it nowadays originates from the Ottoman Empire, probably during the occupation of Greece began since the XV Century. The characteristic dough called Phyllo or Filo derives from the Greek word φύλλο that means ‘leaf’and symbolize perfectly the thin and crispy layers that compose the crust of this pie.Spanakopita is a tasty Greek savoury pie filled with spinach, eggs, and feta, served as a daily snack, appetizer or light lunch, and particularly appreciated by children. This spinach and feta pie has ancient root and probably has been influenced by the Ottoman cuisine.

Greeks love their sweets, which are often based on olive oil and honey combinations encased in flaky filo pastry.  Baklava is the quintessential Greek food experience. This mostly contains nuts and butter along with sugar. After baking, sweet syrup is poured over it so that the syrup can be absorbed by the crispy layers of phyllo. It is probably the most popular food item among all Greek desserts. It brings a festive mood in the dining room through its exquisite flavour and flaky crust.