Phyllo is a light dough made out of flour, oil and water, commonly used as a pastry in Greek and Middle Eastern recipes. A pastry is often referred to as a baked good that holds a filling to create a recipe. Many times pastries are thought of as being sweet and filled with jellies and sprinkled with sugar, but pastries can hold a variety of ingredients, including meats, vegetables and cheese.
Phyllo dough originated in Greece and is still used in traditional Greek cuisine, especially in deserts and appetizers. The most popular phyllo recipe fillings stem from the famed Greek recipes, baklava and spanakopita. Baklava includes decadent layers of chocolate, chopped nuts, syrups and sometimes fruit and spices. These ingredients are layered with thin layers of phyllo dough and saturated in a creamy butter sauce and baked until perfection. Spankopita is a rich appetizer that has a creamy filling of egg whites, spinach and feta cheese and is basted in an egg and butter mixture and baked until the dough is flaky and crisp.
Phyllo dough has a very light taste that makes it the perfect backdrop for most meals where a pastry texture is needed. Phyllo dough is sold ready to use in the frozen foods section and can be purchased from a local grocery store at reasonable prices. The dough is simple enough to use in its chilled state by spreading the dough out on a large surface, such as a baking table or counter top, one layer at a time as the ingredients are carefully added. This is an easy way to prepare any phyllo dough recipe. A small amount of filling is recommended at a time because of the delicate nature of the dough. Phyllo dough is easy to roll up and create layers within the food; this is one of the reasons why it is such a popular ingredient in many appetizers and desserts.
There are several different types of fillings that go well with phyllo dough. Some of the most used are fruits like apples and cherries, cheeses, meats such as ground lamb and spicy ground sausage, vegetables and gravy, nuts, flavored syrups and potatoes. Most phyllo dough is brushed with an egg white mixture to create a golden color as it is being baked.
The potential for phyllo pastry is that it has enough versatility to beused in different meals and cuisines. Phyllo pastry can be used in vegetarian diets to provide a flaky crust for steamed vegetables, as well as pastas and cheeses. Desserts are the most popular food creation that include phyllo dough. Tasty custard and icing fillings laced with cinnamon and brown sugar make great breakfast treats on cool autumn mornings. Jelly filled phyllo pastry is also a popular breakfast treat, especially for those who frequent Greek bakeries. Tasty fruit jelly preserves are wrapped by a light textured phyllo pastry and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Phyllo pastry is delicate; it takes a lot of experience to learn how to work the dough. Oftentimes, the first try at making a pastry that requires phyllo takes patience and practice. Phyllo is very lightweight and flaky, making it easy to tear and oftentimes, difficult to work with. Phyllo pastry must be very cold when it is being worked with; even at room temperature it can fall apart and the filling can soak through and ruin the pastry. Phyllo dough can burn easily, so take care when baking this delicate pastry.
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