The Art of Cooking with Phyllo

Phyllo dough, also known as “filo” or “fyllo,” is a primary ingredient in a lot of Greek dishes. Unfortunately, it can be a little tricky to work with, especially to those who are new to Greek cooking. Phyllo dough is made up of paper-thin sheets, which means that working with it can be difficult.

Don’t get too discouraged though, everybody who has experience cooking with Phyllo has their own tricks and tips for making the process as easy as possible.  Here’s a look at some of our favorite!

Defrosting Phyllo Dough Properly

Working with phyllo becomes easier if it is properly handled from the beginning. Commercial phyllo dough usually comes frozen. The way it’s defrosted can really make the difference. Phyllo defrosts quickly, but if it thaws too quickly the sheets will stick together. Your best bet is to defrost it by placing it in the refrigerator to defrost completely before using it. In fact, phyllo can keep for several weeks in the refrigerator once it is defrosted.

Phyllo Needs to Be at the Perfect Temperature

In order to successfully work with phyllo, the level of moisture that it takes on matters. If phyllo gets too dry while you are working on it, it will be hard to work with. However, if there is too much moisture in the phyllo, the sheets will stick together. Even the natural moisture in the air can impact the sheets of phyllo and make them sticky, or if the air is too dry it will dry out pretty fast.

It is for these reasons that you should never open your dough’s packaging until you are certain that you have everything you will need while working with it. Even then, you should keep your phyllo sheets covered with plastic wrap when you are not actively working with them. Be sure to work as quickly as you are able to prevent the sheets from other drying out or sticking together, depending on the conditions.

You might want to keep a clean, moist towel nearby to cover the phyllo with if you think the air is too dry. If it is too humid, consider finding a way to reduce the humidity before you get started using it.

Storing Unused Phyllo

In the event that you use less dough than you expected, roll up everything you did not use and wrap that collection in plastic. From this point, you can either leave it to cool in your fridge for up to a fortnight, two weeks, or add an additional layer of aluminum foil and keep it in your freezer for up to two months. If you work quickly, the dough will still be in good shape, which will enable you to store it.

Dishes That Classically Use Phyllo

  • Baklava. This popular layered dessert features chopped nuts topped with a syrup made of sugar and honey.
  • Bougatsa. This phyllo dessert is typically filled with a light custard made from semolina.
  • Galaktoboureko. This delicious layered dessert is made with a semolina custard and is topped with a sweet sugar or honey syrup.
  • Spanakopita. This savory dish is made with layers of phyllo and a filling made from a mixture of spinach, eggs, and feta cheese.
  • This dish is made with layers of phyllo and a mixture of cheese and eggs.

Phyllo dough is a very temperamental component of many baked goods and a recurring challenge for beginning bakers. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the challenge of working with this ingredient.