Warm bread with melted cheese is a popular treat as you can see from all the pizza places. These little disks, baked on a griddle, contain a simple filling: feta cheese, dill and green onions. Creamy and salty feta are calmed by the dill and subtly kicked up by what onions do best, adding a distinct bite. For all you Moldovans out there, the recipe is called Moldavian placinta cu branza and is from Adina Beck at her website wheresimyspoon.com.
Choose a feta that is not too dry. It should squish between your fingers, not crumble. If it is too dry, it won’t melt. I love the French Feta from Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.
There are many ways to make a yeast dough. Below, I give my favorite method that takes longer but allows for variations in flours. As I have discovered since I bought a small battery-operated scale, measurements vary vastly. I have used recipes that have weights and volume measurements and my cup measure didn’t reflect the weight. I have made these cheese pies several times because I like them but also, I was trying to get the perfect volume measurements. Unfortunately, I never found it.
I usually use unbleached white flour which also can be heavier. So, if you follow my method, you use the amount of flour that gives you the texture and moistness that you need. You want a dough that is soft and flexible, not stiff. You are going to bake the bread on a griddle so it needs to be thinly rolled out.
But, once you get the dough right, everything else is easy. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook makes everything easier but kneading dough can have its own zen pleasure.
Placinta cu branza
• 3 cups all-purpose flour more or less
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ teaspoons or one package of dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
• ¾ pound feta cheese
• 3 finely chopped green onions
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh or dry dill
• Salt and pepper
• Oil for frying
Stir the yeast into ¼ cup of warm water that has a pinch of sugar added to it. Set aside until it bubbles. In a medium-sized bread bowl, put in 1 cup of warm water, the sugar and the bubbly yeast mixture. Stir. Beat in a cup of flour. The dough will be like a batter. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes or longer.
Stir down the dough and add more flour, stirring at first and then kneading until flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth, soft, but doesn’t stick to the bowl or the floured board. Cover and set in a warm place for an hour.
Make the filling by crumbling the feta into a small bowl. Finely chop green onions and fresh dill together and mix into the feta. Add a little salt and pepper.
Divide dough into 10 parts and form into little balls. Cover with a cloth. On a floured board, roll each ball into thin 6-inch diameter circles.
Divide the filling into 10 quantities and put into the center of each circle. Fold the edges of the dough, overlapping them to keep the round shape. Set aside.
Heat cast iron frying pan to medium to medium-low heat. Add a teaspoon oil and fry on both sides for about 4 minutes each checking to make sure the disks don’t burn. Serve hot or freeze and reheat.
Sarah Ringler is a retired schoolteacher. She worked as a cook for 8 years before being a teacher, and also taught a cooking class at Pajaro Middle School for several years. She comes from a long line of serious cooks and passed the tradition on to her children, grandchildren, students and hopefully her readers.