Daphne Rioux, left, and Dana Toms stretch the dough used in making thiples as they and other members of the St. Fontini Ladies Society ready for My Big Fat Greek Bazaar, set for Nov. 23 at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — Pastries made from treasured family recipes, often handed from grandmother to mother to daughter and made with care and years of skill in a church kitchen, are on offer at a bazaar set for St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday, Nov. 23.

My Big Fat Greek Bazaar is held annually in the fall, usually just before Thanksgiving. People can purchase an array of Greek pastries, enjoy a Greek-themed lunch, and perhaps take home some other dessert-type delicacy made by hand by the members of the St. Fontini Ladies Society.

In the pastry line, there will be baklava, karithopita, paxemathia, thiples, spanakopita, kourambiethes, finikia, galatoboureki, koulourakia, or, buyers can try a pastry box that contains a variety of the aforementioned delectables.

Maggie Christakis demonstrates the art of frying thiples, a Greek pastry, as members of the St. Fontini Ladies Society prepare for My Big Fat Greek Bazaar at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco on Nov. 23. Tammy Wells Photo

Pastries made for the event number in the thousands: society members made 450 dozen — no, that’s not a misprint — of the butter cookies called koulourakia, and that’s just one of the pastry varieties.

For lunch, there’s pastitsio — a type of Greek lasagna — roasted Greek-style chicken, Greek salad, gyros, and spanakopita — Greek spinach and cheese pie.

And, said Carol Xanthopoulos of the St Fontini group, as well as making the traditional Greek pastries at the church kitchen, members also often make their own signature specialties at home, such as pies, cakes or whoopie pies, for sale at the bazaar.

On a recent Wednesday, there was a camaraderie and a keen sense of purpose in the kitchen and dining area as the women took on step two of the three-step, three-day process of making thiples. The delicate pastries are made with whole eggs and egg yolks, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, flour, and skill.

They take rounds of dough made the day before and allowed to rest overnight, pat it with their fingers and then feed the soft dough through a pasta machine once, twice and a third time to get it as thin as possible. The strips are cut and placed on cloth-draped cookie sheets, cut again into rectangles and then carefully placed, one at a time, into hot oil and rolled up like a scroll.

Elizabeth Wassell aranges thiples as members of the St. Fontini Ladies Society prepare pasties for My Big Fat Greek Bazaar, set for Nov. 23 at St. Demterios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco. Tammy Wells Photo

“You want them golden, and you have to keep them submerged to make sure they’re cooked,” said Xanthopoulos as she plucked a thiple from the hot oil. The cooked pastries were to rest overnight, before being dipped in honey syrup the following day.

How long has Xanthopoulos been making thiples and all the other Greek delicacies?

“Forever,” she said. The thiples recipe came from her mother, Toni Ladakakos and her aunt, Vassie Caras.

Helen Spirounias is another volunteer who has been taking part in the annual event for years. As well as benefiting the St. Fontini Ladies Society, there’s a benefit to the volunteers as well, she said.

“It’s good for people to get out, get together and socialize,” she said.

And they do, as they make the thiples.

Over at another table, Elizabeth Wassell arranged the golden thiples in containers until the next day, when they were to get their honey dip.

She joined the church several years ago.

“This is a part of it,” she said of the annual bazaar preparations. “This is my family away from my family. “

Daphne Rioux and Dana Toms were passing dough through the pasta machine

Rioux said she recalls her mother making thiples for her wedding — stretching the dough with the use of long, thin rolling pins. Thiples are often served at weddings, baptisms and other celebrations, she said.

Toms drives down from Windham to take part.

“Its worth it,” she said.

My Big Fat Greek Bazaar is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 23 at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 186 Bradley St. (Route 5) in Saco. Lunch will be served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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