Put on your anniversary mittens: Pies are served! (BBB February 2013)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Assyrian Spinach Pie; plum jam is a great alternate filling; a Bread Baking Babes project; the BBBabes are celebrating 5 years of baking; submission for YeastSpotting and Bake Your Own Bread; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) February 2013

Wow! The BBBabes have been baking bread together for five years!! Many BBBabes have been here since the beginning. To some BBBabes we’ve had to say goodbye, to some au-revoir and to others hello and welcome! We’re very pleased to welcome Heather, the newest BBBabe!

pies This month, Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups) chose the BBBabes’ challenge. I loved the choice. This is something I’ve been meaning to make for ages but just haven’t gotten around to doing.

I’ve had Aida Karaoglan’s recipe for spinach pies in “Food for the Vegetarian” bookmarked for eons – maybe since 1985 or so… shows how much I need a kick in the pants to get going, doesn’t it? :lalala:

The BBB dough calls for mahlab (aka mahlep, mahalab, mahleb, mahaleb, mahalep, mahlepi, machlepi or makhlepi). We just happen to have some in the freezer. (Thank you again, N!)

Mahleb: Mahleb is the kernal – looking like a miniature almond – inside the pit of a species of black cherry that growns in the Eastern Mediterranean.

-Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, Flatbreads and Flavors, p.416

mittens Did you find your mittens?

You did? Me too!

Excellent!! Shall we have some pie?

Spinach pie to be exact – Assyrian-style with mahlab.

BBB Assyrian Spinach Pies Diary:

25 January 2013, 13:07 Ha! How’s this for planning ahead?

I was talking about the filling yesterday with T and was so disappointed when he basically nixed the pomegranate. Waaaahhhhhhh!

His reason: he’s eaten tree-ripened pomegranates and thinks the pomegranates we get here are over-priced and picked too early so they can be shipped all this distance. Pfoooey! (I might just sneak a pomegranate into the basket at the vegetable store when he’s not looking.)

8 February 2013, 16:45 The BBB recipe filling calls for feta, spinach, pomegranate and walnuts. We considered making the trek to the only store that we know about that sells the kind of feta we like. It’s Macedonian feta and it is so far superior to any feta we’ve ever tasted before that we have vowed never to have any other kind.

But it’s an hour’s drive away. And there’s snow galore on the roads. We’ll use goat’s cheese.

And walnuts. The walnuts we buy are a 20 minute bicycle ride away – errrm… 20 minutes if the roads are clear. Did I mention there’s snow galore? So. No walnuts for us. I think there might be some pinenuts in the freezer. Perhaps I’ll use those.

And pomegranate? Nope. I haven’t seen any at our vegetable store (I actually didn’t look that hard). A look online and in our cookbooks on the shelf say that people put spinach with walnuts or spinach with raisins and pinenuts. Some of the other BBBabes said they were going to use dried cherries. I considered that. But dried cherries are in the same area of town as the walnuts. There’s snow on the roads. So I’m thinking I’ll use cranberries instead. Those are tart. And we always have cranberries in the freezer.

9 February 2013, 18:45 When I suggested to T that I would use cranberries, he suggested that I use cranberry sauce.

me: What??? That’s too sweet!
he: Pomegranates are sweet!
me: They are?! … okay, what about dried cranberries?
he: Sure! Great!

Okay! Dried cranberries it will be then! And, thanks to my sister, we just happen to have some on hand.

10 February 2013, 10:45 As I was getting the flax seed and the mahlab out of the freezer, I was thrilled to see that we have a few walnuts in the freezer. Whooohoooo!! I’ll put walnuts into the filling after all.

I’m getting really excited about these pies!

As I was getting out the ingredients, I decided to add a small amount of whole wheat flour.

Mixing and kneading the dough was a breeze. There is something so satisfying about kneading! I love the ritual of stirring the dough with a wooden paddle, plopping out the dough onto the board, washing the bowl and paddle and my hands, and then plunging my nice clean hands back into the dough to knead it til it’s smooth, smooth, smooth.

WASH AND DRY THE BOWL – now aint that a kick in the pants, how many Babes are going to follow that directive. We know Elizabeth will. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! and rub it lightly with olive oil Elizabeth won’t do that part. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, turn to coat, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
-BBB February recipe

I feel compelled to report that I was GOING to oil the rising bowl and dough. I really was. But at the last minute, I just couldn’t do it. There’s oil in the dough, for Heaven’s sake!

Then to get started on the filling: I’m really surprised about the raw spinach! Won’t make the filling all watery?

Nope. I just can’t do it. I went ahead and washed and salted the spinach.

How could I not, after looking at the rather unappetizing photo of the grey-green watery filling in the Baker’s Odyssey spinach pies that are in the “look inside the book” on Google Books?

No. I vowed that I would, as usual, par”cook” the spinach with salt. (We got this idea from Colman Andrews’ article The Italian Torta in SAVEUR magazine, May/Jun 1998. Here is our take on the SAVEUR torte verde – this particular pie recipe and spinach cooking method is one of the reasons we decided to get a subscription to SAVEUR magazine. A slightly different version using chard instead of spinach is in SAVEUR Cooks Authentic Italian:

Put chard into a colander, sprinkle with 1+1/2 tbsp. salt, toss to mix, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. […] Press chard against colander with a wooden sppoon to squeeze out juices. Discard juices and add to potato mixture.
Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian, Torta Verde, p 275

15:18 I just pushed the dough down to give it a second rise. That can’t hurt, can it?

I love the smell of the mahlab! It smells like spiced cherries!

16:45 Time to shape and bake! Whoohoooo! I’ll just check one more time about the oven temperature:

set them on a baking sheet and pop into a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes.
-BBB February recipe


Are they ever easy to shape!! Except for the plum jam pies.

WWwwwait a minute! Plum jam?? What plum jam??

It’s because I didn’t make quite enough spinach filling (that’s what happens when I eyeball amounts instead of measuring). So two of the pies are filled with tart plum jam. Loose plum jam. I imagined that I would have to make 4 cornered pies so we could easily differentiate the savoury from the sweet. It turns out I didn’t have to bother; it was very difficult to seal up the seams.

17:35 They’ve already been in the oven for ten minutes – on the top shelf – I DON’T want to burn the bottoms! But they’re not done. Not even close. I’m thinking maybe 10 more minutes.

18:35 The pies took WAY longer than 10 minutes to bake …

I set the timer for 10 minutes. Not done. Set the timer for another 10 minutes. Not done. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Not done. Set the timer for another 10 minutes. Aha, that’s more like it!

I’ll just re-read the instructions again, shall I?

I used a mix of half olive oil and half melted butter to brush the dough; directions were to spray with cooking spray.
BAKE @ 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
-BBB February recipe

WHAT?!! *%*#%%*&^~~#+?!!*++!~`&^^! I was positive that I had learned to read by now! :stomp:

Brush the dough with olive oil and melted butter?!?? And bake at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes??!!?! How did I miss that?

I confess that I did notice “Olive oil cooking spray” in the list of ingredients. But I’m afraid I ignored it *blush* I thought it was for oiling the rising bowl. :lalala:

Fiddle-dee-deee! Who needs the pies to be brushed on the outside with olive oil and butter anyway? The pies look and smell fabulous just as they are.

I’m so excited! I can’t wait for dinner now.

Just as I expected, dinner was indeed fabulous. T slathered his spinach pies with butter that melted beautifully on the hot hot crust. We happily stuffed ourselves with big steaming bowls of sausage lentil soup and spinach pies. So much that we couldn’t even think about having plum pie for dessert.

Thank you, Tanna! I am really kicking myself that I waited so long to make spinach pies. They’re fabulous!



Here is the BBB 5th anniversary February 2013 Assyrian Spinach Pie recipe. And here is what I did to it:

Assyrian Spinach Pie
adapted from Greg Patent’s recipe for Assyrian Spinach Pies syrian sabanrhiyat in “A Baker’s Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes From America’s Rich Immigrant Heritage”

makes 12 pies


  • 3 gm (1 tsp) dry yeast ¹
  • 240 gm(1 c) lukewarm water ²
  • .6 gm (0.25 tsp) ground mahlab
  • 15 gm (1.5 Tbsp) flax seed, ground
  • 264 gm (2.75 c) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 48 gm (0.25 c) whole wheat flour
  • 6 gm (0.5 Tbsp) sugar
  • 6 gm (1 tsp) salt
  • 46 gm (8 tsp) olive oil

Filling ³

  • good shot spinach
  • salt
  • 1 Tbsp (13 gm) olive oil
  • 1 small onion (75 gm), chopped
  • handful chopped walnuts
  • small handful dried cranberries
  • enough goat’s cheese 4
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp (41 gm) additional olive oil

Topping (optional) 5

  • olive oil and/or melted butter
  1. Mixing the dough Pour lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) into the mixing bowl. Add yeast and whisk until the yeast granules are dissolved and the mixture resembles cream.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in mahlab, flax, flours and salt and stir to form a rough dough.
  3. Kneading Scatter a tiny amount of flour onto the board and turn the dough out.
  4. Wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Please do not be tempted to skip this step.)
  5. Hand knead until the dough is soft and smooth (5 to 10 minutes). Try not to add more flour. Let your dough scraper be your friend to keep the board clean.
  6. Proofing Form the dough into a ball and put it in the clean bowl; cover it with a plate (I know. Tanna said to oil the bowl but really, there is no need!) Let the dough rise in a no-draft place at room temperature (or in the oven with only the light turned on if you want) until it has doubled in size.
  7. Spinach Wash spinach well and place in a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with a handful of salt. Toss to mix and set aside to drain for about half an hour.
  8. After 30 minutes, the spinach will be quite limp and will have reduced by about half already. Squeeze it out well with your hands. For one bunch of spinach, I usually get around 3 baseball sized balls of spinach. Discard juice. Set aside. (Spinach prepared this way keeps very well uncovered in the fridge. It’s excellent for omelette or lasagne. It’s also the perfect way to blanch the spinach for palak paneer.)
  9. Shaping – part 1 When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball. Leave the balls well-spaced apart on the board. Cover with a clean tea towel, followed by a large plastic bag. Allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
  10. Filling Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Pour in a splash of olive oil. Chop onion relatively finely and add to the pan. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is soft and just beginning to colour. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  11. Rinse one or two of the balls of spinach with cold water and squeeze out again to get rid of excess salt. Put the spinach on the board and chop coarsely. Remark about how beautifully green the spinach is.
  12. Put all the filling ingredients into a medium sized bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon. Trust that it tastes really good. (Or if, unlike me, you are well-trained, taste and make any necessary adjustments for flavour.)
  13. Final Shaping Pull one of the dough balls out from under its covering and place it on a lightly floured board. Using a wooden rolling pin, roll it out until it is about 5 or 6 inches in diameter.
  14. Fill a small bowl with water and place it nearby.
  15. shaping Put a dessert-spoon sized amount of filling in the center of the round. Dip a finger into the water bowl and gently brush the outer edges of the round. For the fold lines, imagine that the round is a compass with an equilateral triangle pointing towards N, SW and SE. Fold NE, NW and S towards the center covering the filling entirely and sealing the edges with your fingers. Place the finished triangle on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 6
  16. pies Repeat with the rest of the dough. If you run out of spinach filling, you can use jam to make sweet pies. Make sure that the pies are well spaced. (I used two trays) Keep the jam pies separate from the spinach pies unless you don’t mind spinach pies with jam.
  17. Notice the day after baking the pies that you were supposed to brush the shaped triangles with olive oil and/or melted butter just before baking. Make a note to do that next time.
  18. Baking Put the trays on the top shelf (to prevent burning on the bottom) in a preheated 350F oven. 7 Next time, I’ll preheat the oven to 375F. Bake the pies for 25 to 30 minutes until they are golden brown. Turn the tray around about half way through to allow for uneven oven heat. Watch for burning! (The dough has a relatively high sugar content.) You might want to turn the temperature down to 350F or even 325F half way through….
  19. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a footed rack.

Before serving, preheat the oven (we use our toaster oven) to 350F and heat them for 5 to 10 minutes until the triangles are hot.


1.) Yeast: This is yet another recipe that calls for “a package” of yeast. I know that in North America, it’s generally accepted that a package is about 7 gm – or 2.25 teaspoons. Because I was making half the recipe, this time round, I used 1 tsp instant yeast (because that’s what we happen to have in the fridge). If it were active dry, I’d probably use the same amount.

2.) Water: Please do not use water from the hot water tap. Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave (to create lukewarm water, add cold water until it is the correct temperature – use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist. Or… you can use a thermometer.) Please note that before the yeast is added, the water temperature must be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

3.) Filling Measurements: It just didn’t make sense to me to measure very carefully for the filling. I eyeballed it. It seemed right. T was horrified that I didn’t taste it before beginning to assemble the pies. So, just to see, I tasted it after completing all the pies. As I suspected, it was delicious. I wouldn’t have changed anything.

But. As it turned out, I only made enough filling for 10 pies. So I filled two of them with some tart plum jam we had in the fridge. So we could have pie for dinner AND dessert.

4.) Goat’s Cheese: The BBB recipe calls for feta. We decided to use creamy goat’s cheese (the kind that is sold in a log) instead. Maybe next time we’ll try the pies with feta but I must say it was awfully delicious with goat’s cheese.

5.) Topping: I didn’t notice until the day AFTER baking the pies that we were even supposed to brush the shaped pies with olive oil and/or butter. Next time, I’ll definitely add this step. When I told Mr. Smarty-Pants about this missed step, he said, “I would have done that! In fact, I was going to suggest it but decided I’d better not say anything.”

6.) Final Shaping: Here is how the shaping technique is described in “A Baker’s Odyssey”:

[L]ift up the edges of the 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 the dough to meet in the center and pinch the two edges firmly to seal. The seams will look like an inverted Y.
A Baker’s Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes form America’s Rich Immigrant Heritage, Assyrian spinach pies – syrian sabanrhiyat, p 167

7.) Oven Temperature: The BBB recipe suggests baking at 375F. Our ancient oven tends to be a bit hot so 350 is probably right for us. Not to mention that I didn’t read the recipe correctly in the first place….

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.
A Baker’s Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes form America’s Rich Immigrant Heritage, Assyrian spinach pies – syrian sabanrhiyat, p 167

pie We still knew where our mitten were the next morning and had the plum pie with yoghurt for breakfast. We loved the plum filling! It was perfect for breakfast with coffee.

Bread Baking Babes
Put on your anniversary mittens: Pies are served!  (BBB February 2013)

Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups) is the host of February 2013’s 5th anniversary Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

I enjoy the times we’ve done a bread around a meal and so that idea attracts me. I like the idea that a “bread” can be the main course of a meal. I think this recipe would do that.

The ground mahlab is flavoring for the bread not the filling so I’d hope that most of you can find it. […] [T]his being a bread group I don’t see the filling as the focus. Change it up, make it your own.

I love the filling that we ended up making. But I did wander around a little on the internet and in our cookbooks to see what others did.

Fillings vary from cheeses to leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, purslane and sorrel, to spreads of herbs and spices.

– Aida Karaoglan, Pastry, Food for the Vegetarian: Traditional Lebanese Recipes, p128, 129

The key to great spinach triangles is […] lots of tangy spinach on the inside. […] You can add toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, or feta cheese to the filling to complement the tangy flavor.

-Kamal Al-Faqih, Fatayer bi Sabanekh (Spinach Triangles), Cooking with Kamal (click on “recipes”, then “appetizers (mezza)”)

In “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, there is a recipe for an Afghan turnover filled with apples and cinnamon. In “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou, there is the Turkish Saj Borek filled with feta, parsley, spinach and spiced with black pepper. In “Food For The Vegetarian” by Aida Karaoglan, one suggested filling is spinach and onions spiced with sumac and allspice; another is purslane and onions; another is feta and hard boiled egg; another is labneh (yoghurt put in a cheesecloth and hung overnight to drain), onions, parsley and green peppers.

We LOVE these pies!! And I think sumac would be a great addition. I wish I’d remembered Aida Karaoglan’s suggestion.

So. How to choose! How to choose!

Whatever filling(s) you choose, we know that you too will WANT to bake these pies!! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake savoury pies in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 27 28 February 2013. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ Anniversary Pies:

Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:

Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB)
BYOB is a monthly event begun by Sandy (At the Baker’s Bench), passed on to Cathy (Bread Experience) and hosted by Heather (girlichef) last year. Heather wrote:

[BYOB] encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.

BYOB Badge Heather has handed the BYOB hosting reins over to Roxana (Roxana’s Homebaking). For more information about BYOB and how to participate, please read the following:

  • BYOB: Bake Your Own Bread


The three little kittens, […] they found their mittens,
And they began to cry,
“Oh, mother dear, see here, see here,
For we have found our mittens.”
“Put on your mittens, you silly kittens,
And you shall have some pie.”


– Mother Goose, The Three Little Kittens

Assyrian Spinach Pies (BBB)




This entry was posted in anniversaries, baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes on by . Spinach Pies

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8 responses to “Put on your anniversary mittens: Pies are served! (BBB February 2013)

  1. Baking Soda

    Excellent post and pics on teh shaping Elizabeth, love your filling and the variations!

    Thank you, Karen! We loved the filling and variations too. :-) -Elizabeth

  2. Natashya

    They look wonderful! I’m with you – once I have made them, I want to keep making them and trying different fillings. One of C’s co-workers (Lebanese) says she uses meat in hers. Maybe lamb would be good.

    If only I liked lamb! That does sound like a good idea, Natashya. Although, I really do love the spinach and walnuts. It’s such a satisfying way to eat without meat at all. -Elizabeth

  3. Lien

    Wonderful shaping on your pies, your dough looks a lot firmer than mine.
    Great idea to use the dried cranberries!

    Thank you, Lien. The dough was a little bit floppy but not too floppy to deal with. I confess that I wasn’t sure that the dried cranberries would work but as it happened, we absolutely loved them. -Elizabeth

  4. Elle

    You SHALL have some pie…and glorious pie it was. No need for oil on the crust before baking because your crust looks wonderful! Bet the dried cranberries went so well with the spinach, walnuts, goat cheese, etc. Having plum pies for breakfast makes me so envious…I want some.

    It was glorious, wasn’t it, Elle? Tanna is brilliant to have chosen it. And yes, the plum pies for breakfast were great. -Elizabeth

  5. Jamie

    Oh my, what a great post! I love your story, love living your whole process from the discovery of the recipe through to eating them (bloopers, cursing and all). Hysterical! And thank you for all the information and all the ideas for the next time I make these fabulous pies! We all loved them. Yours look perfect! I used dried cranberries and pecan and cardamom instead of the mahleb (you found mahleb in your freezer???). Next time I think I’ll do spinach, caramelized onions, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts! Yum!

    Yes, the mahlab was in the freezer right next to the flax seeds, Jamie. (Doesn’t everyone have mahlab in their freezer? ;-)) Oooh, good idea to add sundried tomatoes and pine nuts! That sounds great. -Elizabeth

  6. Katie

    I love spinach and feta anything…. and everything!. We have a pomegranate tree – and I ate the entire harvest myself…. 2 pomegranates.

    I’m a big fan of spinach too. I’m not the biggest fan of all Fetas but I do love Macedonian Feta and will use some of that the next time I make spinach pies. You have a pomegranate tree, Katie?! I want a pomegranate tree too!! Even if it only produces two pomegranates. -Elizabeth

  7. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories

    This was a really fun read! Sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts sound really good.

    Sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts do sound good, Karen. But so do the dried cherries that you used in our spinach pies! -Elizabeth


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