Techniques: How to Work with Phyllo Dough

Phyllo is one of our favorite foils for making any number of dishes, from custard in phyllo cups to filled appetizers! Working with those pre-made sheets of phyllo dough can sometimes get tricky, though. Here are a few tips...Phyllo dough is usually found in the frozen food section, either in flat squares or in rolls. One package contains dozens of paper-thin sheets of phyllo. Most preparations use 5 or more of these sheets stacked together.

These sheets can become gummy if too damp or brittle if too dry. To prevent either scenario from happening, try these methods:

Defrost phyllo in the fridge, not on the counter. This prevents too much condensation from forming and making the outer layers of phyllo gummy. The dough can take a few hours to thaw sufficiently to work with, but the bit of forethought is well worth the lack of stress.

Have all your ingredients prepped. We've found that phyllo dough dries out faster than we expect, so it's worth it to have our fillings prepped and our knives or pizza rollers already on hand for cutting out shapes.

Place unwrapped phyllo dough on a damp kitchen towel and cover with another damp towel. The towels shouldn't be completely sodden, but just wet enough to give the phyllo dough some moisture.

After taking a sheet or two to work with, recover the remaining phyllo. Again, the goal is to keep the dough hydrated and prevent it from drying out.

Melted butter works well to fuse sheets of phyllo together. You can use other oils as well, of course, but when we're making up a dish without following a recipe, we tend to fall back on simple melted butter.

On the plus side, once you've made and shaped your phyllo, it keeps very well! You can keep baked phyllo in an airtight container for a week or so at room temperature or for several months in the freezer. If you're planning a big dinner party, this is one step that can be done well ahead of time!

What are some of your favorite ways to use phyllo?

Related: Gallery: Holiday Appetizers from the Kitchn

(Image: Flickr member abbey*christine licensed under Creative Commons)

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