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 20-25 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 a scissors.
- 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.
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 kind of dishes - meat, fruit, cheese, and more.