Greek Pastry Hack

Greeks are famous for their pastries. While other Middle Eastern countries have similar pastries, it seems that the Greek versions are better known. We have baklava, the favorite of the Western world, and bougatsa, the custardy treat that international travelers discover in Athens as a warm breakfast walking and eating treat. We also have the lesser-known and (in my opinion) better-tasting galaktoboureko, karithopita, kourabiethes and melomakarona, the last two being big Christmas season favorites.

The ballerina of Greek pastries is something that you've probably never had unless you've attended a Greek wedding. It's a light and crispy dough that's rolled out into a thin square or rectangle and rolled into two folds while being deep-fried. Then it is laced with honey or a honey syrup, dusted with cinnamon and a generous sprinkling of ground walnuts. It's heavenly! The name, thiples, means "folds" because the dough is folded during the frying.

It's not Origami, but it is just as complicated. When you're coaxing hot dough into certain shapes while everything is submerged in hot oil, you've got to know what you're doing, and likely, your grandmother or auntie or mother had to show you. To make thiples, you need a plan, at least one helper and an assembly line. And that's why the best thiples are homemade and why they're such a treat.

The traditional method is quite a process.

The traditional folded pastries.

What if you cannot eat gluten? Yes, unfortunately, thiples are made with flour, so no heavenly crispiness for you. Or if you're Greek and find yourself dreaming of that lightly sweetened crunch but have no desire to assemble the dough and roll it out to the appropriate thinness and cut it into the traditional shape and fold it using two forks while frying in hot oil... Yes, what then? Read on, friends.

This is my gluten-free, need-it-now thiples hack. #GreekHeritageCookingSimplified

  1. Buy small white corn tortillas.
  2. Cut them into one-inch strips. 1 1/2 inches is fine too.
  3. Prepare the syrup.
  4. Grind a few walnuts.
  5. Put ground cinnamon into a dusting dispenser or an unused salt shaker.
  6. Pour 3- to 4-inches of neutral oil into a deep pan and heat.
  7. Once the oil is hot enough, add a few tortilla strips into the hot oil. Using tongs or two forks, turn them once to brown and crisp up both sides and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  8. When you've fried all of the tortillas, drizzle lightly with syrup (or just honey), dust with cinnamon and sprinkle on as many ground walnuts as you wish to consume.
  9. The tricky part is getting enough syrup on each strip to ensure that the walnuts stick.
  10. Eat until there's a big smile on your face.
  11. Repeat as needed.
What didn't work? I tried this method with yellow corn and with flour tortillas. Neither was as tasty as the white corn, and the flour tortilla burned before it crisped up enough to be covered with the embellishment ingredients. I also attempted to roll the tortillas. The corn didn't want to cooperate, and the flour tortillas rolled with ease, but the rolling added nothing to the overall taste. FOR A PRINTABLE RECIPE INCLUDING THE SYRUP, click here.

I have friends and family members who are gluten intolerant. It makes me happy to know that they can now enjoy a treat that is close to the fabulous thiples of Greek Heritage Cooking. Even better, we can now whip these up in less than thirty minutes. The traditional thiples are incredible. My hack does not replace them, but it's a delightful substitute.


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