Phyllo can dry out quickly, so keep extra sheets covered while you’re working. (Johnny Miller)
We agree: These impossibly thin sheets of pastry dough are intimidating. But once you know a few tricks for working with phyllo, you'll change your tune. High maintenance? Not even close. They need only a brush of butter and some layering to become crisp, light and rich all at once. The ready-made layers, which can be found in the freezer section of your supermarket, also score points for versatility: They make a great base for both sweet and savory dishes. Here are a few of the easy phyllo techniques and recipes that made us fall for the delicate dough.
Storage strategy: To thaw phyllo, transfer the box to the fridge the night before you're going to use it. Once opened, thawed phyllo will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days, but does not refreeze well. (To use up extra sheets, cut them into pieces and toss with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 minutes.)
Essential ingredient: Fat is a necessary player when working with phyllo; without it, the sheets of dough become pasty and flavorless once baked. Melted butter is used most often, but oil works too. Use a pastry brush to lightly spread it on the sheets, and apply it evenly but sparingly — too much will make the final product soggy.
Smart setup: Phyllo can quickly dry out, so it's important to keep extra sheets covered while you're working. Sandwich the stack between sheets of plastic wrap and cover with a dish towel. Placing a damp towel directly on the phyllo, another common method, makes the layers too moist and difficult to separate.
Curried Chicken-and-Potato Pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add ginger and curry powder and cook 2 minutes. Add hash browns, chicken and 2 tablespoons water and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until chicken is cooked through and hash browns are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.
Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and lightly brush with melted butter. (Keep extra phyllo covered while you work.) Stack remaining 5 sheets on top, rotating each sheet slightly so edges are offset and brushing each with butter. Gently transfer stack to a buttered 9-inch glass pie plate. Fill with chicken mixture, then fold edges over top. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes to 25 minutes. Serves 6
Per serving: 345 calories; 17 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 44 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 12 g protein; 4 g fiber.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, pulse almonds, sugar, flour and salt until finely ground. Add egg, vanilla and nutmeg and process until combined.
Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, lightly brush with butter and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar. (Keep extra phyllo covered while you work.) Stack remaining 5 sheets phyllo on top, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with sugar (omit sugar on last layer). Trim stack into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread almond mixture evenly on stack, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange pears on top, overlapping slightly.
Bake until edges are golden and fruit is tender, about 18 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let tart cool slightly on sheet on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 12.
Per serving: 156 calories; 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 52 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber.
45 minutes to make
15 minutes to bake and cool
25 minutes to make
25 minutes to bake
30 minutes to make
20 minutes to bake