As per usual, I went to have lunch with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies. We had actually planned on going out to eat that day, but Melissa said she was planning on making these spanikopita at some point that day and I thought that sounded waaaaaaaaaay better than eating out. And then it turned out that she was looking at the exact same recipe I had been eyeing for awhile. Great! So we whipped them up pretty quickly, and while they were in the oven there was a knock at the door. Her Greek neighbor came by to drop off some homemade baklava - serendipity! Sometimes being spontaneous or changing your plans leads to some pretty great stuff.
Anyway, you will not believe how easy it is to make these. First step - filling. Whiz a whole bunch of fresh spinach around in a food processor until chopped but not pureed (we don't want soup here) - I suggest doing it in 3 batches. Then add some well beaten eggs, feta (you know my favorite brand), and cottage cheese. The cottage cheese threw me for a bit of a loop, I wasn't expecting that. Some recipes use ricotta, but what I ended up liking was the creaminess of the cottage cheese. I think ricotta dries out quite a bit when it is baked.
The next part can seem daunting, but I promise it's not really that fussy. When working with pyllo dough, you need to move quickly or it will dry out. The box will usually have tips, like keeping the bulk of it covered with a cloth while you work, but I find that I don't really need that. In order for it to bake into crispy layers, you need to get fat in between the sheets of phyllo. Most people brush butter over the sheets, which is time consuming and actually doesn't work as well as other methods because it saturates the dough too much and weighs it down. I recommend drizzling the butter, or if you are really in a rush - spraying with cooking spray. You will need to use the brush on the top of the strudel, though, to make sure it is covered.
Now I didn't get any pictures of the rolling up process, so please check out Smells Like Brownies for a more detailed tutorial. What I love about these is that they are large and self contained (versus baking in a big sheet like a casserole and cutting into triangles). So one strudel is a serving and you have a good visual reminder of that (not that that will prevent you from eating two, or three...).
These are really very easy to make, and they come out so perfectly. The phyllo is buttery and crispy, while the filling is silky and creamy. I'm pretty sure this will be my go-to recipe for homemade spanikopita.
adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen
10 oz baby spinach
8 oz full-fat cottage cheese (small curd is better)
12 oz crumbled feta
1 lb thawed phyllo
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Place 1/3 of the spinach in a food processor and pulse until just roughly chopped. Add to the bowl with the eggs and repeat twice until all the spinach is processed. Add the cottage cheese and feta and stir to combine. Set aside.
Lay the phyllo out on the countertop. Peel one sheet away and lay flat on a clean surface (like a cutting board). Drizzle with 1–2 tsp melted butter. Lay a second sheet directly over the first and drizzle with butter. Repeat with a third sheet of phyllo and butter.
Scoop 1/2 cup spinach mixture and mound it on the buttery phyllo layers about 3 inches from the bottom edge. Fold the bottom of the phyllo over the spinach, followed by the sides. Roll up into a rectangle.
Transfer carefully to the lined cookie sheet, setting the strudel seam-side down, and brush the top with butter.
Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, and filling. There should be enough for 8 strudels, possibly with phyllo left over (re-freeze the phyllo for a different use).
Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden and puffed. Cool 5 minutes before serving.