Light, crispy and decadent baklava reminds me of my first and the worst encounter with the phyllo dough. Seeing it on TV, I was inspired make that scrumptious dessert at home, but within no time, I got frustrated dealing with the phyllo dough. I somehow managed to complete the task at hand and ended up with a not-so-bad baklava that day. But I decided I never want to see the phyllo dough ever and switched to the ready-to- use phyllo cups for making cute little concoctions.
…This was a couple of years ago; now I am fearless with the phyllo! After I ran into it again at school, the ultra-thin, incredibly delicate phyllo sheets don’t seem to be scary any more.
Sure, phyllo dough is very high-maintenance and you might be tempted to take the easier route with the puff pastry dough, but with some patience and careful handling you can bake it like a pro!
Some basic ground rules I learnt when working with phyllo:
- Ready to use phyllo dough is sold frozen in the grocery store, usually found near the pie crusts and pastry sheets in the freezers. It needs to be thawed before using, usually overnight in the refrigerator or if you are short of time, a 3-4 hours at room temperature.
- If you don’t need the entire pack, you can separate out a few sheets and refrigerate (up to 2 weeks) or refreeze the remaining sheets by wrapping them back in to the package.
- To prevent the sheets from drying or cracking out, keep them covered in plastic wrap with a damp kitchen/paper towel on top of the plastic.
- Use a soft-bristled brush to butter or oil (canola or vegetable only, no olive oil) the sheets as firm bristles can cause them to easily break or tear. Don’t worry if a sheet tears, just stick it back.
- Prep the fillings ahead of time and save the phyllo for last. Also, do not wrap the fillings too tightly or they may burst the dough.
- When layering or folding the sheets, don’t worry if they are not perfectly aligned or flat. You can always trim the edges.
- Phyllo dough can burn easily, so watch while it’s baking.
Phyllo adds a special flavor and texture to any dish. You can use it as a light and flaky crust for making sweet and savory tarts or pies. It’s also works great when wrapped up with all kinds of fillings for making appetizers. Just keep in mind the basic rules when working with phyllo and you’ll have light, crisp and delicious baked goodies in no time!
Phyllo Triangles with Mushroom Kheema
(Phyllo Pastries with Minced Mushroom Filling)
The appetizer form of the savory Greek pie filled with a mixture of spinach, onions and feta cheese, Spanakopita, comes in the shape of triangular phyllo pastries. I have tried ready-to-bake product from the supermarket and enjoyed authentic Greek pastries at home. After a formal training on phyllo handling at school, I successfully recreated the spanakopita triangles at home from scratch. Once I got the folding technique, all kinds of ideas were bursting in my head and I mixed in some amazing fillings for the triangles – shredded smoked mozarella with sun-dried tomatoes, herbed goat cheese with crushed walnuts and one of the best ones I made were with my very own mushroom kheema
Apart from making triangles, you can roll the phyllo sheets to make spring rolls, wrap it around with the ends open to make cigar-shaped hors d’oeuvres or cut it in squares and bundle the edges up to form little pouches and even make your own phyllo cups by baking the little squares of sheets in muffin pans.
phyllo dough sheets, thawed and covered with a plastic wrap and damp towel (refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or refreeze the remaining sheets by wrapping them back in to the package)
about 1 cup melted unsalted butter/canola/vegetable oil, for brushing
1 cup filling (mushroom kheema or any other of your choice)
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
On a clean surface, lay one sheet of phyllo dough. Using a soft-bristled pastry brush, quickly coat the sheet with oil/melted butter. Fold it in half towards yourself, along the length and brush it with a little more oil/butter.
Place about a tablespoon of the filling in the bottom center and fold the corner up towards the sheets opposite edge, forming a small triangle (as shown in picture 2 above)
Fold the triangle along the sheet to form another triangle (as shown in picture 3 above)
Repeat the steps till you reach the end of the sheet (as shown in pictures 4-6 above).
Brush the triangle with oil/butter and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet (as shown in pictures 7-8 above)
Repeat with the remaining sheets and filling.
Bake for about 8-10 mins, until golden brown.
Cool down for a about 5 mins and serve.
Phyllo Tart with Roasted Red Peppers, Goat Cheese and Carmelized Onions
After my classic savory and sweet tarts, here’s a crispy, flaky phyllo tart that has all the delicious goodness of a French tart but without all the fat of a regular pastry. I particularly love the combination of caramelized onions, goat cheese and roasted red peppers. It always works wonders, like in the piadina I had made earlier.
Phyllo tarts are made the same way regular puff pastry tarts are made, by lining the tart pan with the dough. But the interim step of blind baking the tart shell is not required. Since the phyllo sheets are so thin, even with a number of sheets stuck to each other to form the shell, the tart turns crispy and golden brown within a few minutes and finishes baking along with the filling in it.
For 1 3×3 tart
2 phyllo dough sheets, thawed and covered with a plastic wrap and damp towel (refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or refreeze the remaining sheets by wrapping them back in to the package)
melted unsalted butter/canola/vegetable oil, for brushing
1 slice of jarred, roasted red pepper in water, diced
about 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese
about 2 tbsp caramelized onions
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
Toss all the ingredients for the filling gently in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.
On a clean surface, lay one sheet of phyllo dough. Using a soft-bristled pastry brush, quickly coat the sheet with oil/melted butter and lay another sheet on top of it.
Cut the the two sheets (stuck to one another) into half (around the edges of the tart pan) and lay each piece on top of the other by brushing butter/oil in between.
Brush the tart pan with butter/oil and line it with the prepared phyllo sheets, making sure it sits it snug, folding the edges over.
Pour the filling mixture in to the prepared tart shell and bake for about 8-10 mins till the crust turns golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
Remove from the tart pan and serve warm or at room temperature.