I really can’t think of a Greek pastry I don’t like. You name it – I love it. And I really don’t eat a lot of cake or pastry. Maybe it’s because I grew up with it, or because I have memories of my mom making dozens of cookies for the holidays, but there is nothing that compares to kourabeithes, kouroulakia, finikia, baklava, karithopita, revani…shall I go on an on? Okay! Galakteboureko, loukomathes, bougatsa, kadaifi…
I can’t decide which is my favorite. Probably the one I bake the least – thiples. I think I’m allergic to rolling out dough. Or truth be told, I just don’t have the patience. So as much as I love thiples, I rarely make it. And neither did my mother. But my Aunt Despina did. And this is her recipe. I can’t tell you how many times I asked her, “how do you get this dough rolled out so thin without putting holes in it?”
It was my frustration at mastering this pastry that gave me the idea for an exchange in a chapter between Sophia and Soula. It was actually a memory Dean had when his mother, Soula, cooked all his favorite foods and for dessert made a tray of thiples. Here is an excerpt:
“You weren’t kidding when you said you made all my favorites.”
He smiled when she brought out a tray of thiples. Not because he had a weakness for them, but because the dessert evoked a very distinct memory. He had come home from soccer practice one afternoon to find his mother and Sophia in the kitchen making thiples. The pastry needed to be rolled out paper thin, and Sophia was struggling to get the dough to cooperate. He watched the two of them work side by side to create strips of puffed pastry, drizzled with honey, cinnamon and walnuts. Sophia had been about sixteen, and it hadn’t been long after the summer they’d stayed home while their parents went to Greece — the best summer of his life. What he wouldn’t give to have those simple days back.
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
¼ baking powder
Mix all ingredients to make dough. Use as much flour as needed so dough is not sticky. Wrap in saran wrap and let sit for one hour. Roll out dough in stages, super thin, so you can almost see through it. Slice into 2×5 inch strips. Place a few strips at a time in a deep frying pan, filled 1/3 full with vegetable oil. Twist with a fork and turn while frying until golden. Remove and drain. Repeat until all the dough is used.
To make the syrup
2 cups sugar
½ cup honey
Bring ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and drizzle over thiples. Finely chop Walnuts and sprinkle over thiples. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon.
Yields a large platter of pastry.