Perfecting the pastry-to-filling ratio.
He arrived home late to find me plunging leaves of chard and baby kale into a tall pot of boiling water. He dropped his bag and swooped in to steer me in the direction of small triangles instead of one big pie. He promised elegant, elongated lines if he could fold. And when the tanned triangles emerged from the oven, it was clear we’d been after the same thing all along: shatteringly crisp pastry that leaves a smile on your face and shards with an oily sheen on your lips – wrapped around a punchy filling.
That was the night we finally agreed: make the pastry less to taste the filling more. There’s long been a back-and-forth: Brandon pushing for a high ratio of pastry with individual handheld pies, me pushing to showcase hard-earned flavour in the filling with a single blanket of pastry covering a deep pie dish. This time we met in the middle: many miniature parcels but fewer layers of phyllo.
We started calling them ‘spannies’ (pronounced ‘spunnies’) as a nod to Spanakopita though they’re definitely not trying to be anything more than a little savoury snack inspired by seasonal greens. And this is the season when, thanks to the rains moving in, chard leaves become lush.
On Friday we were slicing a juicy Ananas Noire tomato, now we’re reaching for our socks and noticing March Lilies. The sudden arrival of these luminescent-pink, trumpet-shaped blooms clustered on top of a stalk never fails to amaze us – as if someone arrived in the middle of the night and stuck them straight into the ground. As Mutti (mum) reminded us, it is ‘the flower that says goodbye to summer’.
With these little pastry triangles, texture is as important as taste: it’s all about getting the right ratio of filling to phyllo.
A single strip of phyllo pastry that’s 7cm wide makes one triangle that provides all the sensory pleasure of a delicately crisp, golden coat, while still allowing the filling to shine.
It errs on the side of minimal so there’s no risk of too many phyllo sheets stacked up in a thick surrounding layer that remains pale and seemingly parbaked.
If you prefer the security of a second 7cm wide strip on top of the first before starting to fold, we’ve done the testing and it does work, we just think in this case less is more.
Some other points worth noting:
To allow each triangle to get good colour and crisp up, leave enough space between them when baking – around seven on a baking sheet that’s roughly 40cm x 30cm.
Spunnies have a bad habit of bursting at the seams (or at least through their thinnest part). To avoid this, start at a lower temperature (165°C) and once they are in the oven, turn up the heat (175°C). They don’t mind baking lower for longer.
If the pastry is properly crisped on the first bake, they reheat well. Once the triangles are fully cooled, store them in an airtight container and reheat the following day. Arrange on a baking sheet and slide it onto the middle rack of the oven. Set the temperature to 175°C and allow them to heat up with the oven for about 20 minutes or until re-crisped and warmed through.
How you make the filling is negligible in a way. Not that you shouldn’t care, it’s just that this isn’t about having the right quantity of each ingredient – it’s up to your taste and what you have to hand.
Depending on what leaves we find, we might look to push up the sweetness with fully caramelised onions to balance out the bitterness in the greens that Brandon is sensitive to. Then we would use equal weights leafage and brown onions and enough salty feta to play with the sweet.
If we find a milder, softer leaf and glossy bundles of spring onions at the market, we might go with one and a half times the onion grammage in leaves, split the onions between spring and brown, pull back on the feta and add some garlic.
You could add fresh herbs, or leave them out if you forget to pick up parsley. Or use a bunch of leeks instead of onions. The back-and-forth now plays out with the feta in that I like to discover chunks of it melted in my spunny, while Brandon prefers it crumbled throughout.
Download the pdf below for the outline and enjoy making them your own.
The pdf below is designed for mobile, just download and view on your phone.