I’ve mentioned before that I love to explore all kinds of regional and ethnic foods and recipes, like my recipes for Mexican Breakfast Rolls , German Christmas Stollen, or Italian Semolina Bread in previous posts. And it’s always fun to discover a new-to-me food item, especially if it involves some kind of bread dough. If it includes cheese, I’m definitely going to take a second look! I find it endlessly fascinating to see how many different bread and cheese varieties there are in the world and all the ways to combine and prepare them. My most recent “discovery” is peinirli – Greek pizza boats that are said to be frequently found in tavernas in Drosia, a community north of Athens. Peinirli (pronounced pee-NEER-lee) are a Greek version of Turkish pide, similarly shaped bread that includes a wide variety of fillings.
The photocopied peinirli recipe that caught my eye and launched my most recent research came from a Greek cookbook that I borrowed from the library about 11 years ago. At that time, I was looking for recipes for Greek foods I could make for my special milestone birthday party. Nope, you don’t need to know which birthday that was. I rediscovered the peinirli recipe last week buried in one of my bulging files containing recipes that I use to photocopy from library cookbooks, tear out of magazines, or quickly scribble on notebook paper, you know, back in the dark ages before the internet. I never made peinirli for that birthday party but when I ran across the recipe last week, it looked like just the thing for a light dinner with salad.
Make Peinirli-Greek Pizza Boats
Making the soft yeast dough is easy and you’ll be eating your Greek pizza boats in about two hours. It takes about 15 minutes to mix and knead the dough in a stand mixer; about 30 minutes for the dough to double; another 30 minutes to divide, preshape, form and fill the peinirli; 15 minutes for the oven to preheat; and 15 minutes to bake them. If you make the dough by hand (easy to do), that will probably add about 10 minutes to the total time. While the dough is doubling, shred the cheese, julienne the ham, and line a sheet pan with parchment.
The traditional fillings for Greek pizza boats are ham and Greek Kasseri cheese. We live near the small town of Tarpon Springs, Florida which has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US, so it was easy for me to find Kasseri cheese in a small local grocery store. I learned that mild cheddar, colby, mozzarella, provolone, and muenster–alone or in any combination–are all good substitutes for Kasseri cheese. I decided to use colby on two of the peinirli and Kasseri on the others.
Generously fill the dough boats with ham and cheese, then sprinkle on black pepper, dried dill weed, and dried oregano. Turn the oven on and let the peinirli rest while the oven preheats.
Have a couple of tablespoons of butter melted so when you pull the peinirli out of the oven you can immediately brush the butter on the edges.
Peinirli Greek pizza boats filled with molten cheese and smoky ham make a tasty light meal with a salad, a fun happy hour appetizer to share with friends, or a satisfying afternoon snack for active teens.
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- 420 grams (about 3.5 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 package (2 teaspoons) instant yeast (Note 1)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 180 grams warm filtered or spring water (Note 2)
- 60 grams warm whole milk
- 28 grams (1 oz, 2 tablespoons) butter, melted
- 300 to 400 grams (11 to 14 oz) melting cheese, shredded (Note 3)
- 100 to 130 grams (3.5 to 4.5 oz) diced or julienne ham (Note 4)
- black pepper, dried dillweed, and dried oregano for sprinkling over the top of the filling
- 28 grams (1 oz, 2 tablespoons) melted butter
- Combine and mix the all-purpose flour, instant yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Attach the flat paddle, and with the mixer on low, add the warm water, warm milk and melted butter; mix until combined.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for 7 minutes to get a soft, silky dough.
- Place in an oiled bowl and cover. Set in a warm spot and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, shred the cheese and dice or julienne the ham. Cover and refrigerate.
- When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. then pre-shape into smooth balls.
- Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into an oval about 10" long by 8" wide and 1/8" thick.
- Tightly roll the long sides in 2 or 3 times to form edges of the "boat", then fold in about 1/2" of the dough on each short end and pinch the ends tightly together.
- Transfer the peinirli to a parchment-lined half sheet pan and evenly distribute the ham and cheese between them, then sprinkle a little pepper and dried herbs over the filling.
- Set the oven to 425° and let the peinirli rest while the oven pre-heats, about 15 minutes.
- Bake the peinirli for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through.
- When the peinirli are done, remove them from the oven and immediately brush the edges with melted butter.
- Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then serve.
- Leftovers should be wrapped and refrigerated and are best reheated in the oven, but can be microwaved.
2. Having the water and milk at a warm temperature (90°F to 100°F) and setting the dough to rise in a warm place will help your dough rise faster.
3. The tradtional cheese for peinirli is kasseri, a Greek cheese made from goat and/or sheep milk, but it can be hard to find. Colby cheese or mild cheddar are good substitutes, as well as mozzarella, muenster, Swiss, or any combination. Just choose a good melting cheese that you like.
4. I buy sliced smoked ham and cut it into thin pieces.
There may be links in this post to companies and/or websites with which I have no affiliation, but the links show products that I love and use, or information that I find interesting and helpful.
Nearly all products I mention can be found in independent stores near you, and I encourage you to “Shop Local”.