Spanakopita, a Greek dish made with phyllo dough, cheese, and spinach, is a popular appetizer at get-togethers, and is relatively easy to make. Some of the best tips for doing so include making sure that the spinach mixture is as dry as possible and keeping the phyllo dough moist as you work with it. When making triangle-shaped spanakopita, always use sharp kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, and pie-style versions of this dish should be cut prior to baking to make serving spanakopita easier.
Excess moisture can inhibit the baking process of the phyllo dough; therefore, the spinach mixture should be void of any extra water. This is relatively easy to do with fresh spinach, although using it can be expensive as it cooks down in volume so significantly. Frozen spinach is a fantastic and cost-effective alternative, however it usually really wet. One of the best tips for making spanakopita is to thoroughly thaw and squeeze out all of the moisture from the frozen spinach, and then cook it in a pan to evaporate any additional moisture. This will ensure that the phyllo dough puffs up and develops the buttery, light layers so commonly associated with this dish.
Like most pastry dough, air is the worst enemy of phyllo. This product can dry out quickly when left uncovered, making it difficult with which to work and ruining the texture of the finished dish. To avoid this problem, cover any pieces with which you aren’t working with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap, and then top it with a damp kitchen cloth. This will keep the dough moist without exposing it to water. As you work, take one sheet out at a time and quickly cover the phyllo dough back up to keep the sheets pliable and soft.
A sharp knife or pair of scissors is essential when making triangle-shaped spanakopita. Due to the several layers of dough that this dish requires, you will need to cut a fair amount of it, and doing so quickly and cleanly will prevent the dough from drying out as well as give you evenly-shaped spanakopita. A dull cutting tool can press the layers of dough together at the edges, making them more difficult with which to work, and can cause the cutting process to take longer.
While triangle versions come out of the oven in individual portions, the traditional pie variety does not; therefore, you should always score the top of the dough first before baking it. As phyllo fluffs up so significantly during the baking process, it can be difficult to cut it without ruining the layers after everything is baked. Just before you place the spanakopita in the oven, cut through the top of the phyllo just until you reach the filling, sectioning out pieces in the size that you will serve the dish. This will help the top, fluffy layer to cook in separate sections, while still allowing the filling to cook together as a whole. Once you take it out of the oven, you can use these score marks to cut all the way through the spanakopita prior to serving.