Simple tips with phyllo pastry

September 19, 2015 (Last Updated: January 11, 2019)

All about phyllo pastry:

  • Phyllo pastry is tissue-thin sheets of dough used predominantly in Greek and Middle Eastern pastries and pies. It is used in multiple layers of butter-coated pastry to create a flaky crust. The pastry is found in the frozen section at grocery stores and comes in large sheets rolled into a compact roll of about 30 sheets. _ It needs to stay covered and should be thawed in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.
  • The secret to using phyllo is to be organised and work quickly. Prepare all your ingredients before opening the phyllo pastry.
  • When ready to start, remove the phyllo from its plastic casing and unroll the sheets. Keep the box as unused phyllo can be refrigerated or refrozen.
  • Phyllo should always be covered with a damp cloth when not in use as it dries out very quickly. As you remove each sheet the rest must remain covered.
  • The sheets can be cut into the size and shape required. I find it easiest to cut the pastry with a pair of scissors.
  • Brush individual sheets with melted butter as dishes typically require more than one sheet. You can use oil-flavoured cooking spray between the layers instead of butter for a lowfat choice when making pies and pastries.
  • Don’t worry if the pastry tears as this sheet can be used in the middle layer of the dish and will not be visible once cooked.

Uses for phyllo:

  • Use phyllo sheets in place of pie and tart crusts.
  • Cut with a sharp knife to make strips to place over pie fillings.
  • Cut into squares, spoon filling into the centre and gather the corners to form little parcels.
  • Cut to make bite-size starters or leave in large pieces to make strudel.
  • Phyllo pastry can be prepared ahead of time and covered and refrigerated or frozen and baked just before serving. This method makes phyllo the flakiest.
  • You can sprinkle ingredients between the layers of phyllo or on top before baking.
  • Fillings should be cooled before spooning into the phyllo as hot or warm fillings will cause the pastry to wilt.
  • Brush the edges of the pastry lightly with an egg wash to bake and seal the edges.
  • Do not microwave phyllo pastries and pies as this will make them limp and soggy.
  • Freeze baked and cooled phyllo shapes, wrapped in an airtight container, for up to a month or until ready to use. Place in a preheated oven of 180°C and reheat.
  • Filled phyllo pastry can be frozen for up to one month, depending on the filling. Do not thaw filled phyllo pastry as it will become soggy. Rather place in a preheated oven from frozen.

Folding phyllo:

  • Have all the ingredients for the recipe prepared.
  • Unroll the number of sheets required.
  • Roll out some wax paper and stack the sheets of phyllo you will be using on top.
  • Cover the remaining sheets with a damp cloth.
  • Work as quickly as you can. Spray or brush the sheets as you build the layers required.
  • Place the filling close to the bottom of the pastry, fold the sides to encase the filling and then roll into a thick sausage shape. Brush butter on the outside and the dish is ready for baking.

The end result:

  • Heat, humidity and some fillings may cause phyllo to become soggy.
  • Serve baked pastries and pies warm or at room temperature.
  • Generously dust baked sweet pastries with icing sugar.



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