Phyllo sheets are tissue-thin sheets of dough used in making Greek pastries and filled pies. Phyllo can be found fresh in many Greek and Middle Eastern markets, and in the frozen food section of most grocery stores, with alternative spellings of "filo," and "fyllo." It comes cut into large sheets that are rolled into a compact package of 20 to 25 sheets. Sheets can be used whole or cut into the size required by the recipe.
Most commercial phyllo packaging has good directions for handling the dough, but it can be made easier with these tips:
- Keep the package closed when thawing.
- Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. As a last resort only, thaw at room temperature for five hours and use immediately.
- Prepare all ingredients for your recipe before opening the thawed phyllo.
- Hands should be as dry as possible when handling the dough.
- Bring the packaged phyllo to room temperature before opening and using.
- Remove the thawed phyllo from the package and unroll the sheets.
- Cover the unrolled phyllo with a sheet of waxed paper covered by a damp towel to keep it moist. It dries out very quickly.
- As you remove one sheet at a time, cover the remainder.
- If you tear a piece of phyllo by mistake, don't worry. You can patch pieces together to use in a middle layer of the pastry, and this will rarely if ever, show in the final product.
- If you need to cut it, use scissors or a pizza cutter
Storing Remaining Dough
As soon as you use the quantity of phyllo dough you need, roll up any remaining sheets with the original protective paper, and cover them carefully with waxed paper and plastic wrap to keep air out. The unused phyllo can be stored this way in the refrigerator for a week or so. Refreezing is also ok and it will last sealed in the freezer for about 3 months. Follow the same defrosting technique.
Baking Phyllo Dough
Follow the baking instructions on the packaging or the recipe. You'll want to get the phyllo dough creations into the oven as soon as you are finished. Keep a close watch on them once they are in the oven. You want the phyllo to be nicely golden brown and crisp, but a few minutes past that and they will be burnt.
The keys to working with phyllo are to be organized and work quickly. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it's a great choice for all kinds of dishes from meat, fruit, cheese, and more. If your first venture with phyllo dough isn't super successful, don't be too discouraged and do try again. It is a delicate and finicky ingredient, but it's also quite forgiving. Tears and mistakes are hard to notice once baked.