A Look at Phyllo Dough + 5 of Our Favorite Pastry Recipes

One of my favorite ingredients to buy in the frozen food aisle is phyllo dough. If you've worked with it before or have used it in cooking, it's a paper thin dough that is ideal when making tarts, pastries, and other sweet or savory dishes. I would call myself a pretty experienced baker, but I'll admit that I have yet to tackle the task of making phyllo dough. I've made puff pastry before, which is pretty similar, but it's just so convenient to buy phyllo dough, especially when you're pressed for time.

Phyllo (also spelled filo), which means 'leaf' in Greek, is a super thin, unleavened sheet of dough that contains little fat. Phyllo dough has a long, ancient history most likely originating in Turkey. Food historians believe that since the people at that time were experienced at growing wheat to make flour, they would use it to create huge amounts of dough.

One of the ways they would use the dough was by stretching and rolling it out into paper-thin sheets to make filo. You might see phyllo dough used in many popular Greek or Middle Eastern dishes like baklava, spanakopita and börek.

These phyllo dough-based pastries are made by layering thin sheets of phyllo, brushing in between each layer with a coating of olive oil or melted butter. It might sound like a heavy and filling dough, but phyllo pastry is flaky, delicious and has a nice crisp to it.

How Phyllo Dough is Made

Making homemade phyllo dough - Greek Chef Peter Minaki's demonstration (5 photos) Yakir and I have used phyllo dough, but we never made the dough, so we were eager to see Greek Chef Peter Minaki of @kalofagas demonstrate how to prepare it at home. __ The chef made it look easy. He made the dough from flour, water, a little oil, a little vinegar and salt, in a mixer with a dough hook. After letting the dough rest, he stretched it so thin that we could see his hand through it, and he said, smiling, "my mother can stretch the dough much more than this!" __ Chef Minaki then showed us two techniques that simplify making phyllo dough. One technique, he said, borrows from puff pastry preparation--smearing soft butter on the dough, folding it, rolling it again and repeating this procedure several times, then refrigerating the dough before shaping it. We could not help reflecting that this technique reminded us of the way Yakir's mother made malawah dough. (Malawah is a round, pan-fried pastry Yemenite pastry similar to Indian paratha.) __ With this dough, Chef Minaki showed us how to make spanakopita Greek spinach pie. In the photos you see him lightly kneading the dough, cutting through the layers before baking the spanakopita, and the ready-to-bake spanakopita brushed with butter. Chef Minaki's second phyllo technique called for dividing the dough into pieces, shaping them in balls, rolling them in pita-size rounds, and smearing soft butter on the rounds. After they rested, he rolled each one very thin. __ For more on Chef Minaki's class, see https://goo.gl/528KJP Chef Minaki, the author of "The Everything Mediterranean Cookbook" and other cookbooks, is known for his supper clubs in Toronto, Toronto, for his cooking classes and for his website, Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond. The class was organized by the Saint Sophia Philoptohos Society. Photos by Yakir Levy @lexikins #phyllo #filo #phyllodough #filodough #homemadephyllo #homemadedough #homemadepastry #spanakopita #Greekspinachpie #Greekfood #Greekcuisine #Greekpastry #Greekpastries #minakicookspsla #Greekcooking #Greekrecipes #Mediterraneanrecipes #spinach #Mediterraneancooking #Mediterraneancuisine

A post shared by Faye Levy (@foodfaye) on

Although frozen phyllo dough sheets and squares are convenient and readily available in the frozen aisle, homemade phyllo dough is possible to make at home.

If you've ever made filo yourself or learned how to make it from you grandmother, most phyllo dough is made with a few common ingredients: all-purpose flour, salt, water, and a little olive oil and vinegar. The soft dough is formed into a ball and then small pieces are rolled out on a clean work surface using a rolling pin or if you're old school, a broom handle. Some chefs nowadays even use a pasta machine to achieve the paper-thin sheets of dough.

Once the dough is rolled out and you're ready to use the filo dough for pastries, fat (either melted butter or olive oil) is brushed on to each sheet of dough and layered to create a crisp, airy texture. Here is a simple recipe (pictures included!) for homemade phyllo dough to try right at home.

Working with Phyllo Dough

Since phyllo dough is commonly sold in the frozen food aisle, it's best to keep store-bought phyllo in the freezer, unless you're planning on using it right away. Defrost frozen filo gently in the refrigerator and not on the countertop since that can turn it gummy and cause the layers to stick together.

To prevent the phyllo from drying out, try to work with it quickly, keeping the other layers covered in plastic wrap or a damp towel while you're working. And no need to worry if a layer of phyllo dough rips - it's very forgiving and you can easily patch it up. Once it bakes, no one will even notice!

Here are some of our favorite phyllo dough recipes.

1. Fresh Fruit Phyllo Tartlets

Phyllo dough
The Comfort of Cooking

Filled with a creamy, homemade vanilla pudding, these fresh fruit phyllo tartlets make a beautiful dessert. The delicate, flaky pastry dough is cut into rounds, layered with melted butter and placed in mini muffin tins. Make sure to use fresh fruit that's in season!

2. Spinach & Olive Phyllo Cigars

Phyllo Recipes
The Kitchn

These Mediterranean-inspired spinach & olive phyllo cigars are creamy and full of flavor. They make a great appetizer and require three layers of filo. There's need to worry about brushing each phyllo sheet with melted butter. One brush on top of the finished phyllo cigar is just enough!

3. Phyllo Chicken Casserole

Phyllo Recipes
Taste of Home

A hearty meal all in one casserole dish! Chicken, broccoli, and bacon are the main components of this phyllo chicken casserole and mixed into a creamy cheese sauce. You can go wrong with the crispy phyllo dough topping.

4. Bacon and Eggs Phyllo Breakfast Pizza

Phyllo Recipes
Diethood

Colorful and elegant, this bacon and eggs phyllo breakfast pizza is a meal fit for any time of the day. Instead of using pizza dough, about ten phyllo sheets are used for the base of this pizza. The best part about this recipe is the seasoned feta cheese spread!

5. Nutella and Banana Phyllo Triangles

Phyllo Recipes
Coley Cooks

I think I could eat one of these Nutella and banana phyllo triangles for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert! Nutella and bananas are truly a match made in heaven and make a perfect snack to go along with coffee or tea.

Watch: 7 Breads You Can Make in Your Cast Iron Skillet

oembed rumble video here