Cretan-style honey pancakes are made with only 3 basic ingredients and they are egg and yeast free. There are several variations all over Greece and more combinations to enjoy: plain served only with honey or/and topped with nuts and spices like cinnamon, stuffed with all kinds of cheese, and served with homemade jam, fruits, etc. This post’s version, called “Nerates Mizithropites” (Mizithra Cheese Water Pies), is coming from eastern Crete and they are stuffed with local soft goat cheese and served with honey.
WHY EAT CRETAN-STYLE PANCAKES?
To begin with, the dough is ridiculously easy to make: just flour, water, a bit of lemon, and a pinch of salt. It needs some time to rest (the longer the better), ideally overnight, and then in the morning, you make one of the best breakfasts in just a few minutes.
This recipe is so versatile. Apart from breakfast, you may serve it as a snack at any time of the day, or as a light meal. Pair it with your favorite ingredients like:
The traditional way: don't skip the honey (try to find the best quality of raw Greek honey) because that’s how you get the sour-sweet flavor that makes this recipe unique.
Add nuts: nutmeg, almonds, sesame whatever you like.
Add fresh or dried fruits: figs, bananas, prunes, strawberries, etc
Add cheese and good quality prosciutto: all kinds of cheese from soft goat cheese, and ricotta to hard cheeses like parmesan, and kefalotyri. You can either stuff the cheese the way I will show you below or/and serve it on the side.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE RECIPE
Are you here only for the recipe? Not a problem…. Jump to Recipe
The rest find out about the oldest recipe in the blog. The first documented pancake in the world roots in Ancient Greece where they used to eat a sort of pancake called “τηγανίτης (tēganítēs), ταγηνίτης (tagēnítēs) or ταγηνίας (tagēnías). All words deriving from τάγηνον (tágēnon), "frying pan (skillet)". The earliest attested references are in the works of the 5th century BC poets Cratinus and Magnes”.
Isn’t it fascinating?
The simplicity of this recipe is its strongest attribute:
Flour: all kinds of flour work here. However, hard/strong/bread flour will guarantee extra elastic dough that holds its shape even better. Now, no need to rush to the supermarket. I made my pancakes with all-purpose flour and they turned out excellent.
You may also use whole-wheat flour which is the best option following the Mediterranean way of eating. Till today, I have never used whole grain flour for this recipe but I think it won't be a problem.
Olive oil: basic ingredient for every Mediterranean Greek recipe. It will keep the dough soft and humid till we shape and stuff the pancakes. Plus, we need a small amount to shallow fry the honey pancakes.
Lemon: It sounds strange ingredient for the dough but that’s a thing in Crete. Cretan often cooks use lemon to make dough for pies or for Cretan-style pancakes. On the contrary, other parts of Greece prefer a splash of vinegar to give extra crispiness to their phyllo pies. I love both and follow the traditional recipe according to the region. That's my thing!
THE STUFFED CHEESE
The traditional recipe calls for a Cretan goat cheese named “mizithra” which is used in the majority of Cretan savory and sweet recipes. There are 3 main types:
- Salted mizithra, popular with homemade local pasta dishes,
- Unsalted mizithra, used for amazing sweets and
- Sour mizithra or xinomizithra is the kind we need for our recipe. It’s a medium-soft fresh cheese that has a slightly sour, salty, and extra tangy taste with a melt-in-the-mouth texture. One word. Delicious. There are various versions of xinomizithra all over Greece, all of them exquisite. Don't miss the chance to taste some if you are lucky enough to find xinomizithra.
Sadly enough, I know for most of you is difficult to purchase this cheese except for those who are lucky to live near a Greek deli. Nevertheless, you may add aged ricotta which is close enough (but not quite), or fresh, soft goat cheese with a tiny bit of feta cheese to add a bit of saltiness and sourness.
Even though I highly recommend making the above stuffing, quite frankly, I cannot think of a cheese that you couldn’t pair with this recipe, either for the stuffing or for the side. Use your culinary imagination, and your pantry/fridge ingredients to make amazing combinations.
For me, Greek honey is the best choice and it’s all it takes. The sweet-sour flavor works like a charm and you won’t need anything else. However, you may go further and add nuts like ground walnuts, almonds, sesame, jam or preserves, and even peanut butter (weird for the Greeks, I know but it is quite good according to my older son). Perhaps a dash of cinnamon too. It’s your choice.
CRETAN-STYLE HONEY PANCAKES STUFFED WITH CHEESE: THE RECIPE
As mentioned above, these Cretan-style pancakes are named "Neropites" (Water Pies) or “Nerates Mizithropites” (Mizithra Cheese Water Pies) after the extremely soft and watery dough. So soft and watery that you think that it is impossible to shape this dough. But it is…
The secret is to wet your fingers by dipping them in a bowl with water when handling the dough. Hence the name Water Pies (Nerates). It's a unique and easier-than-you-think cooking method.
See below how to make them:
To begin with, combine the flour with olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Use your hands or a stand-alone mixer to gently incorporate all the moisture from the liquids. The aim is to flavor the flour and prepare it for the water. This technique can work for all kinds of dough for phyllo.
Add gradually the water. You need A LITTLE BIT MORE water than necessary to make a watery and soft dough. So wet that it sticks to the fingers. Don’t worry about that. You’re going to shape it just fine.
Don't overdo it. I mean we need sticky dough but if you add too much water you will get a mixture so thin that eventually will come out like batter.
In the end, add some more olive oil (a tablespoon) so that the dough remains soft while resting.
Cover and let the dough rest for no less than 2 hours or ideally overnight in the fridge. Allow it to come to room temp before shallow frying if it rests overnight in the fridge.
Work on the cheese. Use a fork to smash the soft cheese (or soft goat cheese) and add some water if the mixture is too thick.
You may mix feta cheese and/or goat cheese as well. We need a smooth mixture without big crumbles of cheese.
In a bowl add water and dip your hands in it, break off a small ball of dough, wet your fingers and palm again, and flatten it. Add some soft cheese all over the dough. The quantity depends on the size of the flattened dough and if you want to be extra cheesy. I usually add all the cheese it can get.
Dip your hands in water once more and lift the edges of the dough and close up until you form a small ball. See how easy it is?
Place in a heated skillet coated with just a splash of olive oil (I don't measure but let's say about a teaspoon). Wet your hands again and get rid of extra water. Pay extra attention to your hands because water (even drops) on a heated skillet can easily burn your hands. If you are a novice cook, I would recommend using a fork instead of your hands. It will work just fine.
So, use your hands CAREFULLY (or a fork) to flatten the ball from the center outwards. Work fast because the heat won't allow you to flatten too much. It takes only a few minutes to golden brown on one side.
With the help of a fork, flip the pie over and remove it when golden brown on both sides.
Finally, you don’t have to make them round.
Watch my video while I shallow fry my Cretan honey pancakes to see the method.
MY CRETAN-STYLE HONEY PANCAKES ARE READY! NOW, WHAT?
Eat them while warm. Like right out of the skillet…warm. I know you cannot resist. I always taste the first one. It is the cook’s privilege, as I say. They’re of course good no matter when you eat them, but a fresh piece hot off the skillet is pure perfection, to say the least.
The honey might not seem to be totally needed BUT it’s definitely necessary. That’s how you will find out why Greeks are obsessed with Cretan-style pancakes. Soon you will be hooked as well.
Looking for other sweet and savory bread and pita to make? Here are a few to try:
If you have already made my Cretan-style honey pancakes stuffed with cheese, I would be super grateful to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood! Above all, I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Thank you so much!!!
Recipe credits: This amazing recipe is coming from Argiro Barbarigou's site. The Cretan chef Kostis Kostakis was kind enough to share his family recipe. Thank you both of you!
Cretan-style honey pancakes stuffed with cheese
- 3 ¼ cups (500g) all-purpose flour or bread/strong flour
- 3 ¼ cups (300ml) water
- ½ lemon, fresh juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- A generous pinch of salt
- 2 ½ cups (300gr) soft goat cheese or a mix of soft goat cheese and feta cheese or/and aged ricotta or Greek xinomizithra
- Greek honey, preferably raw
- Combine well the flour, the lemon, and the olive oil. Use your hands or a stand mixer.
- Add gradually the water. Use your hands or mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and more watery than bread dough. It shouldn't pull away easily from the sides of the bowl and it has to be a bit sticky.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to coat the bowl and the dough.
- Cover the bowl and let it rest for no less than 2 hours. Preferably, cover overnight in the fridge.*
- When the dough is ready, add the cheese to a bowl and use a fork to smash it. It should be smooth enough. Let it aside.
- In a small bowl add water. Place all the ingredients (the bowl with the dough, the bowl with water, and the cheese) near the stove.
- Dip your hands in the bowl with the water and shake them to remove the excess of it. Take an amount of dough (the size of a ping pong ball), and flatten it with your hands. Wet again your hands if needed.
- Add about a tablespoon of cheese to the center and all over the dough. Wet lightly your fingers once more. Fold up the dough around the cheese, pinching to seal it in. It has the shape of a ball.
- Heat a medium-sized skillet, over medium-high heat and drizzle it with a teaspoon of olive oil. When the skillet is hot enough place the dough ball on the hot skillet,
- Use CAREFULLY your palm and fingers to flatten the ball in the skillet. Excessive water (EVEN DROPS) is a dangerous combination with hot olive oil on a skillet. Alternatively, use a wet fork. Work fast and flatten the dough as big as you like.
- Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown on the underside.
- Remove from the skillet and wrap in a clean kitchen towel. Keep warm in a 250° F (120° C) oven. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
- Serve the pancakes warm, drizzled with a generous amount of honey following the traditional way.
- Additionally, top with walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, extra cheese on the side, jam, fruits, etc
- If the dough rests overnight in the fridge, allow it to come to room temp about 1-2 hours before cooking.
- This recipe makes 8-10 pancakes.
- You can freeze your pancakes BUT they won't taste as deliciously fresh and out of the skillet hot.