Sweet Cheese Pastries from Crete Recipe

Crete cheese pies
  • 60 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 30-36 pieces (30 to 36 servings)
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In Greek: καλιτσούνια Κρήτης, pronounced kah-leet-SOON-yah KREE-tees

These sweet cheese pastries use a rolled dough instead of thin phyllo sheets. Depending on how they are folded (see below), they can be baked or fried. They are holiday tradition on the Greek island of Crete, but eaten at other times as well because they're so delicious! These call for the fresh soft variety of myzithra (not the aged salty type) cheese, and if you can't find it, try Italian mascarpone or ricotta.

(See this recipe with step by step photos.)

What You'll Need

  • For the Dough:
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of strained yogurt (unflavored)
  • 2 eggs (beaten with a fork)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of brandy
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 2/3 pounds of fresh soft myzithra cheese (or mascarpone or ricotta)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon of orange peel (grated)
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg (beaten, for glaze)
  • Optional: 1 cup olive oil (if frying)
  • Garnish: ground cinnamon (for baked pastries)
  • Garnish: powdered sugar (or honey, for fried pastries)

How to Make It

Prepare the dough

In a large bowl:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together (sugar, baking powder, flour).
  2. Add the oil, mixing with a spoon or hands.
  3. Stir in the strained yogurt and eggs and mix with a spoon until the dough begins to stiffen, adding the brandy to soften the dough as needed.
  4. Knead the dough in the bowl for approximately 10 minutes until smooth, and set aside to rest.

Make the pastry:

  1. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese, cinnamon, sugar, egg yolk, orange peel, and flour together until well blended.
  1. On a floured surface with a rolling pin, roll a piece of dough out to a thickness of about 1/8th of an inch.
  2. Using a 3-4 inch cutter or saucer as a guide, cut out circles. (Alternatively, take a piece of dough the size of an unshelled walnut and roll it out to a circle about 3-4 inches across.)
  3. Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture into the center of the circle and spread out close to the edges. Raise the rim of the dough up around the cheese and, with wet fingers, pinch the edges to pull the dough in around the cheese, leaving the center open so the cheese shows. Repeat using all the dough and filling.
  4. Place the kalitsounia on the baking sheet and brush lightly with beaten egg to glaze. Bake at 350F (180C) for approximately 20 minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.
  5. To Fry: Place a teaspoonful of cheese mix into the center of the circle, fold the circle over into a half-moon shape. With wet fingers, crimp the edges to close securely. Preheat 1 cup of olive oil over medium heat and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or drizzle with honey.
  6. Allow to cool on the baking sheet. Kalitsounia will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator.