How to Use Pastry Dough

Since ancient times, phyllo dough, sometimes called puff pastry, has been loved all over the world. The layers, known for their buttery crisp quality, make phyllo dough stand out from other pastries. Making it from scratch requires stretching dozens of paper-thin sheets of wheat flour dough by hand and then buttering, stacking, filling, and folding them into all kinds of sweet and savory delights. Few modern bakers -- even the professionals -- want to do all that work, no matter how wonderful the finished product tastes.

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Here is a pastry recipe from our collection:

It's fortunate that commercially prepared sheets
of phyllo (also spelled "filo" and "fillo") are readily available in supermarket freezer cases.

These delicate sheets are ready to be stacked, buttered, filled with just about any flavorful filling imaginable; folded into almost any shape; and baked. From flaky, savory appetizers to decadent desserts, the possibilities are almost endless.

General Guidelines for Working with Phyllo

While working with phyllo has a reputation for being difficult, it's actually quite easy to master if you remember to follow these basic rules:

  • Defrost phyllo dough overnight in the refrigerator or as directed on the package.

  • Have all your ingredients ready before taking out the dough.

  • Remove only as many pastry sheets as needed (wrap unused sheets in plastic wrap or foil and return them to the freezer immediately).

  • Unfold pastry sheets on a lightly floured board, countertop, or pastry cloth. If the pastry becomes too soft, chill it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

  • Work with one pastry sheet at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or covered with a damp towel so they won't dry out.

  • Handle the pastry as little as possible to ensure tenderness.

  • Seal filled pastries by brushing a mixture of beaten eggs and water between layers, then pinching or pressing them together.

Now that you know the basics about phyllo dough, learn how to make pastry triangles on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • How to Make a Pie: A home-baked pie adds a perfect finishing touch to any meal. Fortunately, there are so many varieties of pie, it's easy to find one to complement any menu. Learn how to make a pie here.
  • How to Bake a Cake: Find basic instructions and definitions that will help you bake a cake in this article. You'll learn about everything from selecting the proper baking pan to cooling and frosting a finished cake.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.