Braided Savory Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nut Pastry


This started out as a dessert post, but then I looked out the window, and it’s December in Minnesota.  My family needs something warming tonight, so I dropped the almond cream and raspberry idea (page 231 in the book), and jogged to the store for spinach and imported feta to go with the pine nuts I already had in the house.  Not only is this thing delicious, but I stashed gobs of spinach into it and it was super kid-friendly anyway. 

First, start preheating the oven to 350 degrees F for about a half-hour.  Saute a pound of fresh spinach in a tablespoon of olive oil, until it’s well-wilted and has given up a good amount of liquid, which you need to discard or the pastry will be soggy.  I peppered but didn’t salt the spinach, because my feta cheese is very salty–taste it first; if it’s bland go ahead and salt the spinach to taste.  Set aside the sauteed spinach while you prepare the dough.


Roll out your favorite enriched dough from the book, like challah (page 180), or for a really decadent treat, the brioche (page 189)– the goal is 1/8 of an inch thick.  It took a little less than a pound to get a rectangle about 8 by 18 inches (a small grapefruit-sized piece of dough).   I bought some really nice imported feta and crumbled a little less than a half pound in a line down the center of the rectangle:


Then, layer the drained spinach over that:


Now sprinkle a generous handful of pine nuts as the last layer before you start the braid (you won’t actually have to braid…):


Using a pizza wheel, make 1/2-inch wide strips down each side. 


Now, fold the strips, one side after the other over the filling, creating the illusion of a real braid:


I’m not quite as artful about this as Zoe is, I’ll admit.  But it basically got the job done and through the magic of gauzy photography, who’s going to be able to tell?  Allow the braid to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature.  Egg wash and black sesame seeds completed the effect, which is something like a Turkish spinach pie  This goes into your pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes and a complete meal is done.  If you can sell this filling, the kids won’t need any other vegetable tonight.


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70 thoughts on “Braided Savory Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nut Pastry

  1. Great idea!. I just used up my challah dough making buns for pulled pork sandwiches, so looks like I have an excuse to start another batch.

  2. this looks and sounds delicious and healthy… too bad I don’t have any spinach or feta in the house or I’d make this tonight using light wheat dough which is what I’ve got in the fridge right now

  3. Thanks Ethan and Doreen.

    Doreen, good eye–you caught me. This is actually whole wheat challah dough from the new book. I won’t be able to release exactly what we did (still working on it, actually). Jeff

  4. I’m really looking forward to the whole-grain recipes in that new book. In the meantime, this looks healthy and tasty and elegant!

  5. That looks so good! I think I’ll start a batch of challah tonight so I can make this over the weekend. So glad you’re doing another book!

  6. Wow! That looks amazing. I definitely need to try that. I have pine nuts languishing in the refrigerator, begging to be put to good use. I think I’ll join Judy L and mix up a batch of challah tonight.

  7. Thanks Dana– off to Baltimore right now to be on WMAR-TV (ABC-2), so no time to take a look, will check in when I get back! Jeff

  8. Looks Delicious. I think I’ll tackle it over the holidays when the whole family is here but I’ll put a more Italian spin on the ingredients. Maybe spinach, oven roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese?


  9. Thanks Katie and Deborah: The italian spin is going to be great, let us know how it comes out. Try to drain some of the liquid from the tomatoes or it might get the bottom crust a little soggy, but that depends on how well-roasted the tomatoes are. Jeff

  10. I would like to know if you use your baking stone when you make bread or buns in a pan or the small brioche tins? I want to make a traditional dutch currantbread with my own amandelspijs (like marzipan) and I am not sure how I should go about it or which recipe to use. Another question I would like to ask pls….I had a delicious lightly sweet bun that had chocolate in it (I even bought some of the chocolate stiks from the bakery cause it was so good). It was quite airy but it wasn’t like pastry. How could I recreate that…any suggestions I would appreciate. Thanks and luv the book.

  11. I have done this same idea but with fresh mozzarella and cut up meatballs. Delish!
    And the braid looks great!
    No worries!

  12. Jeff, this looks heavenly – I’m going to try it for dinner tomorrow night. I just got your book this week and I am SUCH a fan girl of you and Zoe now! What an amazing innovation, especially for harried moms like myself. ♥

  13. Oh my this looks delicious and perfect for this time of year, even in sunny SoCal. I wish I had the dough on hand to make this this evening — I’m cooking tonight for some kids. Alas, i’ll treat myself to it sometime this week. yum!

  14. I saw this first via Tastespotting in my RSS feeder, so no context as to the original source… and my first thought was, “Oh, that would be nice with Five Minute brioche, and I have some in the freezer.” When I clicked through and saw the orange banner, I laughed out loud!

    The raffle book has arrived and been catalogued and has already checked out twice. I predict lots of new fans around here by the time the new book comes out. Thank you so much!

  15. Beth: You were so generous to donate your raffle-winning book to the library. Thanks for getting out the word. 23 days to next-book manuscript due-date. Jeff

  16. I just made this for my work holiday party tonight. It looks great, but I can’t try it until the party. Bummer! I did have a heckuva time transferring the finished braid to the cookie sheet though. It came apart a bit and I had to patch it up. Is there a secret to this?

  17. Petra: I’m a bit chagrined to admit that I probably should have said to assemble it on parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a greased cookie sheet, so whatever it was built on can just be dropped into the oven without disturbing the braids.

    Sorry about that! Let us know how it tasted if you have time. Jeff

  18. Jeff–thanks for the tip! It tasted very good. In retrospect, I would’ve salted the spinach a tad more, but it was very good spinach and the flavor did show! And the whole loaf was gone! I only had one little slice! So, a success and a keeper recipe!

  19. Margot: the recipe, adapted from page 231 of our book, calls for a 40 minute rest time before hitting the oven, I’ll add that in. Jeff

  20. That was my first brioche and may I say it turned out delicious. That dough is so rich and flaky. When I looked at the recipe I wondered if I was seeing things right…EIGHT eggs? THREE sticks of butter? Now I know why. Wow! What a great way to eat spinach.

  21. well I made this twice over the holidays, it was the first thing to go both times ( I also made the sticky buns, and regular cinnamon rolls with the dough). While it looks like an appauling amount of butter it’s not so much if you think how much one batch of dough makes (i.e. 3 sticks of butter and 8 eggs + two braids and two pans of rolls) Or maybe it’s just my way of justifying it, it’s so delicious!

  22. I LOVE you concept. Thank you. I have a question. Over the holiday a tradition is to make nut rolls and poppy seed rolls. Can I use your dough method to make those items ? and If so what dough recipe would you recommend?
    Best of luck to you both on the sale of your book. ( I bought 3 more for family members for the holiday)

  23. Renita: I’d use an enriched dough for what you’re describing, probably the one on page 180– it’s really a multi-purpose enriched dough. If you want something really rich, use the brioche (page 189).

  24. Made this today!!! It was awesome, thanks for the great idea! I’ll be posting pics to my blog soon and can I link you as well?

  25. Hello All. I cannot wait to try the Spinach feta!! I just found you all in the Mother Earth News and I love the idea of storing the dough and making it every few days! Do you have any Rye recipes that can be made the same way. I live in Arkansas and have not yet found a baking stone or board. I may have to find one online. I am your newest fan!! I will look for your book!! Thanks, Pamela

  26. Pamela: The rye recipe in our book is one of my favorites. It’s a classic deli rye with caraway seeds. Online’s a good option, on our homepage ( is a set of links (on the left-hand side) to amazon, where you can get most of the products we reference in the book and on this site. You can also buy the book, by clicking on the picture of the book’s cover just above the amazon “store.” Jeff

  27. Had the Spinach bread made with the Challah dough last night — it’s delicious. The dough was very easy to work with. I have Earth Balance sticks sitting out now softening to use for Pecan Sticky buns. Used oil in the Challah dough as my husband and I both have tendency to high cholesterol.

    I want to try a dough adding wheat germ and soy flour to one of your doughs that already uses milk – something on line of Cornell Bread. have you done anything using soy flour?

  28. Thanks for your quick reply. The pecan sticky buns were awesome – looked just like the picture in the book. Couldn’t believe I had made them! I’ll try the soy with some vital wheat gluten. I usually add one tbsp soy, 1 tbsp dry milk, and 1 tsp wheat germ in bottom of each cup of flour, so would be a little under 1/2 cup soy per recipe.

    Love your book and this site. Being able to “see” the recipes and read about other people’s problems and solutions is great. I’m anticipating the second book.


  29. This looks sooooooo good Jeff. How many will it serve as a main course?

    If there is anything left over, what is the best way to keep it?

  30. Depends on how much dough you start with. A one-pound ball of dough, rolled out and filled? Six people?

    I refrigerated the leftovers because of the cheese, in an airtight tupperware.

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