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What Is Phyllo Dough?
Phyllo dough is a paper-thin pastry dough made by rolling together layers of dough. It bakes to produce a flaky, shatteringly crisp texture. Although the dough likely originated in Turkey, where it's known as yuf ka, the Greek name filo ("leaf") is what caught on internationally. Traditionally made by hand with a long rolling pin called an oklava, most of today's phyllo dough is prepared by machine and sold frozen.
6 Ways to Use Phyllo Dough
Thin sheets of phyllo dough are essential to all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean appetizers and desserts. Since frozen phyllo sheets are widely available, they can also be used to make a variety of dishes that aren't traditionally made with phyllo dough.
- Phyllo dough apple strudel is an Austrian rolled apple pie.
- Baklava is a Turkish dessert made of layers of phyllo pastry separated by melted butter and stuffed with chopped nuts like pistachios. Learn how to make Baklava in our article here.
- Spanakopita is a traditional Greek spinach pie.
- Samosas are pyramid-shaped savory pastries from South Asia and Africa.
- Cheese pies like baked brie and baked feta cheese can include crispy phyllo dough.
- Kserotigana are Cretan phyllo dough swirls fried in olive oil.
Phyllo Dough vs. Puff Pastry: What’s the Difference?
The main differences between puff pastry and phyllo dough are their fat content and preparation. Puff pastry is a laminated dough that gets its signature airy puff from layers of butter, while phyllo dough is largely fat-free.
Phyllo dough includes only flour, water, vinegar, and a little oil. The fine sheets of pastry dough result in a crispy, crackly effect when layered and baked. When brushed with butter and stacked, they form a flaky crust that is essential for Middle Eastern desserts like baklava and Greek dishes like spanakopita.
Pastry chefs make puff pastry by layering and folding dough and cold butter, periodically placing the pastry dough in the refrigerator to chill throughout the process. Gluten builds during these rest periods. When the puff pastry bakes, the water contained in the butter turns to steam, lifting apart the stretchy layers of dough and burnishing the top with a glossy, golden-brown sheen. Puff pastry is useful for making flaky French pastries like croissants.
Homemade Phyllo Dough Recipe
Prep Time1 hr
Total Time2 hr
- 4 cups durum wheat flour (or another high-gluten all-purpose flour), divided, plus more for work surface
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for hands
- ½ cup cornstarch
- Place 3 cups of flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add 1 cup room temperature water, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil to the well.
- Using a fork, whisk the water, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil together, gradually incorporating the flour. Add a little more water if needed. When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured work surface.
- Coating your hands with olive oil if needed, knead the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with olive oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature 1–2 hours.
- Divide dough into 10 equal pieces, oiling your hands if necessary.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 cup flour with ½ cup cornstarch. Use this mixture to flour your rolling pin, work surface, and phyllo dough as you roll the balls into paper-thin sheets of dough..
- Stack the sheets of phyllo dough, layering parchment paper between sheets. Wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 3 months.
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