My brother-in-law family’s emigrated from Bosnia to the US during the Bosnian War. With it, they brought along their culture including the wonderful rustic cuisine from the Balkans region. My brother-in-law’s mother, Sefira, bakes really delicious traditional cheese pie called pita sirnica with phyllo dough made from scratch. I was very intimidated at the thought of making phyllo dough by hand rather than getting it from the friendly frozen section of the supermarket. Her recipe and handed down phyllo technique are actually beginner friendly and not as laborious as I had expected. Try this delicious cheese pie today.
This recipe makes approximately 6 to 8 cheese pies depending on how large the phyllo sheet will be at the end of the stretching process.
You can also use store bought phyllo dough and skip to the filling section. Buy the largest sheet that you can find.
4 and 1/3 cups / 600 grams of all-purpose flour
1 and 3/4 cups / 400 grams of water
1 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil (any type)
Filling and Topping
2 to 2.5 cups of crumbly goat cheese or feta cheese
- The amount of cheese will depend on how large your phyllo dough will be at the end. Generally, 2 cups of cheese are good for a dough stretched to table size for 4-6 people and 2.5 cups for a table size for 8-10 people.
- If you are using cheese preserved in salt water like what we used to make this recipe, you will need to soak the cheese for 15-30 minutes to get rid of the excess salt.
- If you are using regular feta, you will need to add a little bit of salt, approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, to the filling to give it more flavor. The amount of salt will be to your preference.
1 large egg or 2 small eggs depending on how many cups of cheese you end up using
- 1 large egg for 2 cups cheese
- 2 small eggs for 2.5 cups of cheese
1 tablespoons of oil (any type)
3 tablespoons of Mexican cream or crème fraîche thinned with a bit of lime juice or water. The taste should be slightly tart and thin enough to drizzle.
A clean tablecloth and large table
Optional: A stand mixer
You can form and knead the dough by hand for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough becomes a smooth ball or use a stand mixer like a Kitchen Aid below. The process is still the same with either method.
Add 4 and 1/3 cups or 600 grams of all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of salt to a mixing bowl.
Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, put the setting on low (Kitchen Aid #2). While stirring the flour, add 1 and 3/4 cups or 400 grams of water and 1 tablespoon of oil. Keep mixing until the dough has incorporated all the water and comes together. This will take around 1 to 2 minutes.
Turn the setting to medium (Kitchen Aid #4), knead the dough for another 5 minutes. The dough should have formed into a ball, but will still be a little tacky.
Remove the dough from the mixer and placed onto a floured surface. Knead by hand for another minute until you can form a smooth ball. Add more flour if the dough is still sticking to your hands. Rest for at least 2 to 3 hours or best overnight. (For beginners, I would recommend resting it overnight to make the dough much more pliable and easier to stretch out.)
After the dough has rested, roll it out into a disk (like a pizza) to 1-inch thickness.
Brush 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil on top and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Prepare a large table with a clean tablecloth. Move the dough to the center of the table.
Starting from the edge of the disk, slowly and carefully pull the dough toward you until there is no more give. Do Not break the dough. Move onto the next section if the current part of the dough has no more give and repeat. Rest the dough for another 10 minutes.
Repeat this step until you have stretched the dough as thin as possible to the edge of your table. If your dough starts to have holes along the edges after stretching 2-3 times, then it has been fully stretched.
Trim the excess dough off the edges to make a clean and even phyllo sheet. (I used the leftover dough to make the crust for a small tomato and mozzarella pizza.)
Make the filling by mixing 2 to 2.5 cups of crumbled cheese, 1 to 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon of oil.
Add the filling sparingly along the edge of phyllo sheet (use the edge of the shorter side) in a straight line.
Pull the tablecloth up so gravity can help you roll the phyllo dough over the filling. Stop when the filling has been covered.
- Since the dough is so thin and sticky, it’s hard to maneuver it by hand.
- Using gravity to roll the phyllo over makes this process quicker and cleaner.
Cut the strip of phyllo with the filling and form into a circular shape like a snake.
Move the cheese pie into a greased baking tray. Repeat this process until you have used up all the filling and phyllo dough.
I was able to make 8 pies with phyllo dough stretched out on a table for 8 to 10 people.
Preheat the oven for 420F. Bake the pie for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and drizzled with 3 tablespoons of Mexican cream and bake for another 7-10 minutes until it is golden brown.
Let it cool and serve.