Cretan Fried Cheese Pastries (Sarikopitakia)
These savory fried cheese pies are named for their spiral shapes. Sariki, a Turkish word meaning “turban,” is also the name of a traditional headdress still worn by Cretan men at celebrations. Tsikoudia, a grape-based spirit from Crete, is used in the dough, likely for making it easier to roll out into thin sheets.
Welcome to the land of lost cheeses, where a band of shepherds and farmers resist industrialization
What You Will Need
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 3 tbsp. tsikoudia or grappa
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for frying
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 lb. mizithra cheese (2 cups), or substitute 11 oz. ricotta salata (1½ cups) blended with 5 oz. feta (½ cup)
- Thyme honey, for serving
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 cup water, the tsikoudia, olive oil, and salt. Mix on low speed until a dough forms, then increase to second speed and continue mixing until the dough is tight and smooth, 3–4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
- On a lightly dusted work surface, roll the dough out to a 36×15-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into twelve 3×15-inch strips. Spread 3 generous tablespoons of cheese filling along one long side of each strip, then roll up the dough from that side to seal in the filling, creating a long cylinder. Roll up each cylinder along the work surface to form a coil, then tuck the loose outer ends under and press lightly to flatten and seal.
- Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and place it by the stove. In a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet, add enough olive oil to reach about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 325°. Fry the sarikopitakia in batches, flipping them occasionally with a slotted spoon or spatula, until golden and crispy, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer the pastries to the wire rack to drain. Serve warm, drizzled with thyme honey to taste.