How to use filo pastry?

  • When making a recipe that calls for 1 package (1 pound) of phyllo, always buy two, just in case.
  • When using frozen phyllo, thaw completely in the refrigerator for 24 hours and bring to room temperature before using or the dough can be gummy (if thawed too quickly outside the refrigerator) or crack (if still partially frozen).
  • Prepare all other recipe ingredients before opening the phyllo package, and have waxed paper and a cool damp towel ready to cover it.
  • Always work on a flat dry surface, and make sure your hands are dry. Getting the phyllo wet (with water) will make it gummy and sticky, and impossible to manage.
  • Gently open and unfold phyllo. If any pieces stick together and cannot be gently separated, the usable part can be cut away, if large enough.
  • Small breaks or cracks in phyllo sheets are normal.
  • If a recipe calls for a certain size of cut dough, use a ruler.
  • Phyllo sheets can be cut with scissors, shears, pizza wheel, or pastry cutter.
  • When brushing with butter or oil, or spraying with a butter-flavored cooking spray, start at the edges and work in. The edges dry out the fastest. And don’t use too much – just a light coating, otherwise, the end result is greasy.
  • If you have several pastry brushes, use a soft wider one (2 1/2 – 3 inches) for sheets, and a smaller one for small triangles or rolls. Otherwise, a soft 1 1/2 to 2-inch wide brush works well on both sheets and small pastries or pies.
  • If the recipe for a pastry needs a perfect top layer and the dough has not cooperated totally so far, just select a perfect sheet, brush it carefully with butter or oil (per recipe directions), and use it as the outer layer of wrapping.
  • When cutting phyllo pan pies into pieces before baking, make the first cut through the top layers of phyllo with a razor blade. It will cut through more cleanly, leaving nice edges. Follow up with a knife if the recipe calls for cutting all the way through to the bottom before baking.
  • Phyllo pastries should always be cooked in pans with a flat bottom.
  • Never try to reheat phyllo pastries or pies in the microwave. If they’ve been refrigerated, either serve cold (if appropriate) or let them come to room temperature.
  • If phyllo sheets get torn or don’t defrost properly so they stick together at the edges, salvage what you can. Pieces can be used to make fabulous dishes like Leftover Phyllo Cheese Pie. For all it’s delicacy, phyllo is very forgiving!

Filo pastry, or phyllo pastry, is a delicate, thin pastry that adds something special to both sweet and savory dishes. If you want to know what exactly filo pastry is and ways to use it, then read on!

What is filo pastry?

Filo or phyllo pastry is a paper-thin pastry that is common in Greek, Middle Eastern and Balkan cooking. When you use the pastry, you join layers by brushing each layer with butter or oil. This also helps it become crisp as it cooks. Filo is often filled in some way, such as the classic dishes of baklava and börek.

What is filo/phyllo pastry made of?

Filo is made from flour, water and typically a small amount of oil or vinegar, although some recipes also use egg yolk.

How do you make filo pastry?

You basically need to stretch the pastry dough very thinly, keeping it well floured so that it doesn’t become too sticky. If you want to test if it is thin enough, try reading a newspaper through the pastry.

I personally have never made it myself (yet!) as it’s something that needs a fair amount of time, skill and space to avoid it sticking to each other as you go. But some day! In the mean time, ready-made filo sheets are readily available both fresh or frozen.

What is the difference between filo and puff pastry?

Although both pastries give a flaky appearance, they are quite different. Puff pastry is much denser and the butter is combined into the pastry rather than being brushed between layers.

The layered effect in puff pastry is created by rolling the dough out and folding it over on itself before rolling again, called laminating. Puff pastry is generally easier to make as a result.

Can I substitute puff pastry for filo?

There are some recipes where you could substitute puff pastry, but it will give a different feel. Filo is much more crumbly and light, while puff pastry will be denser.

As a rule of thumb, if you are using filo for recipes where you just want a flaky pastry, then puff pastry may work instead, such as some appetizer bites, but otherwise I’d suggest you don’t substitute.

These days, there are so many ready made filo cases that help make using filo easier, so you don’t have to go through the layering process yourself.

How do you thaw filo pastry?

As I said, one of the most common ways to buy ready-made filo pastry is frozen. Both ready formed, cooked pastry (like phyllo cups/ filo cups) and the uncooked sheets should be thawed in their packaging before you use them.

Tips for using filo pastry

Even with ready made sheets of pastry, filo can be a little tricky to use. Some tips for using it:

  • The main thing to remember is that it will dry out quickly once exposed to air, so only take a small amount out of the packaging at a time.
  • Make sure you have your oil or melted butter ready before you take out your pastry so that you can work quickly.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry sheets to try to avoid ripping.
  • Use a pastry brush to brush oil or butter on evenly.
  • If you are shaping filo pastry eg in a mould or to stick to itself, do this quickly before the butter dries and/or the pastry becomes more brittle.
  • Don’t worry if the pastry breaks a little, you can stick it together with the butter or oil as you use it and won’t notice the difference in the end result. I just try to not use torn sheets in what will be the outer layer so it looks neater.

Traditional recipes using filo pastry

Some common Greek recipes using filo include:

  • Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie)
  • Tiropita (pastries similar to börek filled with cheese and egg)
  • Kasseropita (a pie made with kasseri cheese)
  • Bougatsa (a type of breakfast pastry with custard and cheese or meat)
  • Galaktoboureko (a dessert with a set custard-like filling)

Turkish and Balkan dishes include:

  • Börek (cheese filled pastries) – sometimes made as rolls, sigara börek
  • Baklava (a layered dessert filled with nuts and drizzled with honey, also found and claimed as their own across the region)
  • Bundevara (a Serbian pastry filled with pumpkin)
  • Gibanica (a pie made with eggs and cheese)

Filo is also very similar to other thin pastries used in North African cooking and for apple strudel, so can be used for both strudels and dishes like pastilla (North African meat pie).

Other ways to use filo pastry sheets

You can also use filo pastry for many other dishes, such as as an alternative to shortcrust or puff pastry is sweet and savory pies or quiches. It can also be cut into pieces to make appetizers like my pesto goats cheese filo parcels.

Ways to use filo pastry cups

Ready made filo cups are really handy for easy bite sized appetizers or desserts. They can be filled in lots of ways and make great party bites.

Some ideas include:

  • hot phyllo crab cups
  • mini mincemeat tartlets
  • berry phyllo cups with lemon cheesecake cream

Filo pastry is such a versatile ingredient, both for traditional recipes and whatever your creativity can come up with, so give it a try!

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Homemade Phyllo (or Filo) Dough

  • Prep

    30 m

  • Ready In

    2 h 30 m

  1. Place 2 cups flour in a mixing bowl; make a well in the center. Drizzle in olive oil and add salt; add white wine vinegar and warm water. Mix until dough just comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly floured work surface.
  2. Knead until dough is smooth, using just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the work surface or your hands, 2 or 3 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is supple and elastic, about 5 more minutes. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Divide dough into 20 (20 gram) portions using a kitchen scale; roll each portion into a ball. Place on plate and cover with plastic wrap to prevent dough balls from drying out while you begin to roll them out. Work in batches of 5.
  4. Mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons flour together in a bowl. Dust a work surface and the first dough ball with the cornstarch mixture. Flatten out the dough ball and roll out into a circle, about 5 inches in diameter. Dust again with cornstarch mixture. Set circle to one side. Roll out 4 more dough balls to about the same diameter and stack them on the first one, dusting each layer with more of the cornstarch mixture to keep them from sticking together.
  5. When you have 5 circles, roll out the stack to a larger circle about double in size, turning as you go to maintain a round shape. Separate each layer and lay out the circles. Re-apply more cornstarch mixture where needed and restack them. Roll again until the 5-layer stack is paper thin, about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Place on a sheet of parchment paper; top with another piece of parchment. Gently roll up the dough; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
  6. Repeat with the remaining 15 balls of dough in batches of 5.

Phyllo Dough Sheets

DESCRIPTION:

These flaky, layered sheets of tissue-thin pastry dough are best known for their use in traditional Greek and Mediterranean dishes such as baklava, spanakopita and strudel. However, the light, crispy texture of phyllo adds a welcome crunch to almost any dish – from appetizers and snacks to entrees and desserts.

Phyllo pastry dough is better for you than other prepared doughs. Our phyllo pastry dough sheets have no trans fat, no saturated fat and no cholesterol. Low-calorie Athens Phyllo Dough is the perfect substitute for high-fat puff pastry, ready-made crusts and canned, refrigerated doughs. Check out our nutritional information below.

Phyllo is quick and easy. Use phyllo every day, not just for special occasions. Working with our dough is surprisingly simple. Create your own phyllo masterpiece or explore some of our recipes. Come back often, as we frequently update with fresh ideas and new uses for phyllo.

INGREDIENTS:
CONTAINS:

Wheat

NUTRITIONAL INFO:

Serving size: 5 sheets (57g), Servings per container: about 8, Amount per serving: Calories 180, Calories from Fat – 10, Total Fat – 1g, Saturated Fat – 0g, Trans Fat – 0g, Cholesterol – 0mg, Sodium – 170 mg, Carbohydrates – 36g, Dietary Fiber – 1g, Sugars – 2g, Protein – 5g

PRODUCT FACTS:
  • Approximately 40 – 9” x 14” Phyllo Sheets; 20 per 8 ounce roll
  • Keep Frozen
  • See FAQ for storage & handling tips