How to Make Filo (Phyllo) Pastry

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Making Filo Pastry

Filo Pastry Spinach Pie

A paper-thin translucent pastry used in Greek, Eastern European and Middle Eastern recipes. It’s ideal for making savoury parcels, Greek style cheese pies (John’s “speciality” for Boxing Day), samosas and spring rolls. It’s usually layered and brushed with melted butter between the layers to maintain it’s crispy quality.

It’s the only pastry that I buy ready-made, either already frozen (or vastly reduced fresh which I then freeze!) as it is so difficult to make. It requires not only a lot of time and patience but knack.

You will need quite a few attempts to be able to judge the dough’s correct consistency and a lot of dummy runs at stretching it without breaking/ripping the dough.

Obviously you can make your own but be prepared for some frustration along the way:

Ingredients for Filo Pastry:

  • 4 oz (112 g) plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method for Filo Pastry:

  1. Sieve the flour and salt together in a bowl and gradually add water to make a stiff dough.
  2. Oil your hands lightly and knead the dough on a board, gradually working in all of the olive oil this way until a smooth, elastic dough is achieved.
  3. Roll the dough in a little more olive oil, place in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to stand in a warm place for a couple of hours to allow it to rest.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll to ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thickness on a lightly floured board.
  5. Cover with a cloth and allow to relax again for 10 minutes.
  6. Cover a worktop with a smooth, clean cloth and lift each piece of the rolled dough onto it one at a time.
  7. Putting your hands, palms down under the dough, gently stretch the dough with the back of hands, rotating the cloth until the dough is stretched and as thin as tissue paper and in an approximately 1’ x 1’ (30 cm x 30 cm) square.
  8. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Variations on Filo Pastry

All filo type pastries are paper thin but ingredients vary. The recipe above was given to us in Greece but some recipes include beaten egg and butter, some a little salt and one included milk which doesn’t fit with a middle-eastern food.

Good luck!

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