One of the ancient axioms of dinner parties is this: Do not make a recipe for the first time when you have guests coming over. But some recipes are an exception, like this one, which I tested for the first time on a full table of guests. They loved its layers of shatteringly crisp phyllo, the light swirls of yogurt, and the filling of chopped raisins, honey, and pistachios — rather like a lighter, deconstructed baklava.
And I loved it too, because every one of those fancy-sounding components can be made days ahead. To serve this pretty dessert, all you need to do is stack it up and hand it over.
Here's an interesting thing about phyllo, too: I learned from one of our readers that phyllo dough is actually vegan — it’s made with oil, not butter. This versatile freezer staple is also a helpful component for assembling fancied-up desserts that look beautiful but are actually a snap to make, like this one. You can create little pastries with the dough, as we do here, and even layer them with soft cheese, preserved fruit, and aromatic honey. Or you can continue on to create a vegan dessert by skipping the dairy yogurt and using coconut yogurt instead, and substituting agave, brown rice syrup, or sorghum syrup for the honey.
→ Learn how to make coconut yogurt: How To Make Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt - Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn
Working with Phyllo Dough
The key to success with phyllo dough is to understand how to work with the paper-thin layers of dough, keeping them moist until you’re ready for them, and handling them gently. This recipe may look long, but all the components of this beautiful and unique dessert can be made ahead of time.
Honeyed Phyllo Stacks with Pistachios, Spiced Fruit & Yogurt
For the phyllo dough:
6 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the pistachio and fruit mix:
Zest and juice of 1 orange (about 1/4 cup juice)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup dried golden raisins, roughly chopped
1 cup roasted unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the yogurt:
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
Raspberries or strawberries to garnish, optional
To prepare the phyllo squares:
Heat the oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment or Silpat.
Stack the phyllo sheets on the countertop and cover loosely with a barely damp towel. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Put the oil in another small bowl. Remove a sheet of phyllo and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the phyllo dough with the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the cinnamon sugar. Top with another sheet of phyllo, oil, and cinnamon sugar. Repeat with all of the sheets, but when you get to the top layer, brush it lightly with oil. Use kitchen shears to snip the layered dough into 12 squares or rectangles of equal size.
Bake the phyllo dough for 7 to 8 minutes or until it is golden-brown and crispy. Let it cool completely. The prepared phyllo squares can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
To make the pistachio and fruit mix:
In a small saucepan, heat the orange zest and orange juice, sugar, and honey until the juice boils and the honey dissolves. Stir in the golden raisins and set the pan aside.
Mix the pistachios with the dates. Stir in the cardamom. Stir the spiced pistachios and dates into the pan with the syrup and raisins. Set aside the pistachio and fruit mix to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This mixture can be made up to 5 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
To make the yogurt:
Thoroughly mix the yogurt with the confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest. The yogurt mixture can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, well covered.
To assemble the dessert:
Smear about 1 tablespoon of yogurt on a phyllo pastry square. Place on an individual dessert plate. Top with a generous spoonful of the fruit mixture, then another a phyllo square. Repeat, and top with a final pastry square and a small dollop of yogurt. Sprinkle the stack and the dish around it with pomegranate arils and pistachios, then drizzle lightly with warmed honey. Repeat, creating 4 phyllo square stacks, and serve immediately. Garnish if desired with seasonal fruit such as raspberries or strawberries.
Reprinted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand. Copyright © 2014. Property of Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.