Quick Recipes and Easy

Working with Puff Pastry, or Phyllo, Dough is Not That Hard to Do

Phyllo, or puff pastry, is a versatile dough that can be used in dishes from appetizers to dessert (and practially everything in between.) For the beginner, save making this dough from scratch and buy it at your grocery store. It can be found in the freezer section. Until you are comfortable working with the pastry, frozen phyllo sheets work perfectly and cut down on time. The brand I like to use is called Athens but any brand will do.
The dough comes in what looks like sheets of paper, rolled loosely, encased in plastic wrap. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator. Have a pastry brush handy for brushing the phyllo dough with melted butter. Carefully remove the plastic, and work with the dough as quickly as you can. The dryer it gets, the harder it is to work with. To keep it moist, place plastic cling wrap over the sheets that aren’t being used and place a moist towel on top of that. Don’t leave phyllo dough exposed to the air any longer than necessary, or it becomes brittle and hard to deal with.

Butter the bottom of whatever pan you are using, then place phyllo sheets, brushing butter on each layer, in the pan. Brush from the outside in, because the edges tend to dry out quicker. Build up nine sheets, then add a layer of the filling of your choice. You can use either sweet or savoury filling, as the dough compliments both. For this example, I will mention apple filling (7 or 8 chopped apples, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 cups brown sugar, lemon zest and separately, 2 cups ground almonds and 1 cup brown sugar mixed together.) What I do is spread a layer of apple filling, then a layer of ground almonds mixed with sugar, then add another nine layers of buttered phyllo sheets, then repeat until filling and almonds are used up. Cover with the last phyllo sheets, butter them on top then cut them carefully into a sharp knife. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown (oven temperatures vary, I bake mine 45 minutes or more.) Make sure the phyllo isn’t right up where the heating element is at the top of the oven, to avoid burning. I place my pan in the middle of the oven to be safe.

When the pastry is finished, take out of the oven and pour warmed honey (about one cup) on top while the pastry is still warm. Using phyllo is that simple. It is incredible how many uses there are for it. Try using it for meat pies, baklava, napoleons, and more. Be creative and try different fillings that interest you. Just go online and use free recipe websites like RecipeZaar.com to find whatever recipes you like. Also, check out the Athens website for useful recipes using phyllo dough. Using phyllo will impress your family and make dinnertime look like a gourmet feast.

Carolyn McFann is a scientific and nature illustrator, who owns Two Purring Cats Design Studio, which can be seen at: cafepress.com/twopurringcats cafepress.com/twopurringcats . Educated at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Carolyn is a seasoned, well-traveled artist, writer and photographer. Besides handling numerous assignments in the US, she has lived and worked in Cancun, Mexico. Clients include nature parks, museums, scientists, corporations and private owners. She has been the subject of tv interviews, articles for newspapers and other well loved media venues.

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