Phyllo is a favorite pastry for making any number of Mediterranean dishes, from spanakopita, aka spinach pie and delicious baklava we serve at Paymon’s to meat pies and Greek custard-filled pastries. These pre-made, paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough elevate dishes to new textural levels, however, working with the tissue-like dough can sometimes get tricky.
Here are a few tips if you want to try using it at home:
Phyllo dough is usually found in the frozen food section of the grocery store, either in flat squares or in rolls. One package contains dozens of paper-thin sheets of phyllo. Many recipes use 5 or more of these sheets stacked together.
Perhaps the most important things to keep in mind when working with phyllo is that the sheets can become gummy if too damp or brittle if too dry.
- Thaw phyllo in the refrigerator, not on the counter — This prevents condensation from forming and making the outer sheets of phyllo gummy.
- Have all your ingredients prepped, and don’t open the package until you are ready to start. Phyllo dough dries out fast, so it’s worth it to have your fillings, knives, and any other supplies you might need prepped and ready to use.
- Unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them flat on a dry surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and then a damp kitchen towel. (Covering with just a damp towel will moisten the sheets and make them stick together.)
- After taking a few sheets of the pastry to work with, cover the remaining dough. Again, the goal is to keep the dough hydrated and prevent it from drying out.
- Work as fast as you can.
- Use a soft-bristled pastry brush to lightly coat the sheets with melted butter or oil. Paymon’s uses clarified butter which is costlier but is a game-changer for baklava. Start at the outer edges (to keep them from cracking) and work in toward the center.
- Roll up any unused sheets, wrap well in plastic, and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Or, wrap in plastic and then foil to freeze for up to two months.
At Paymon’s Mediterranean Café and Lounge we feature 2 dishes made with phyllo dough – our amazing spinach pie and decadent nut and honey-filled baklava. What are some of your favorite ways to use phyllo?