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Filo parcels are small triangles or packages of filling encased in filo, also known as phyllo or fillo, pastry. Filo pastry is very thin and several layers are usually used in the creation of a filo parcel. The filling can be savory or sweet and the pastries are popular in Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The Greek word phyllo means "leaf" in English. Filo dough is made of all-purpose flour, water, a little oil and either white vinegar or a little raki, the Greek version of Italian grappa. The flour is mixed first with the oil and vinegar and then water is added as necessary. The dough should be elastic, soft and pliable. The pastry is then rolled and stretched until it is one large paper-thin sheet. If made by hand, then the sheets will probably be thicker than the store-bought variety. A pasta machine can also be used.
Once the desired thinness is achieved, the filo parcels can be made. As the dough dries out quickly, any pastry that is not being worked on should be covered with waxed or parchment paper and a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel. Most filo parcel recipes require the sheets to be layered after brushing on melted margarine or butter.
After the filo dough has been layered, it is time to cut the shapes desired and add the filling. Filo triangles filled with feta and spinach, known as spanakopita in Greece, is a favorite but the pockets can be filled with virtually any filling, sweet or savory. Fruit, tofu, cheeses, meat and vegetables are also possible fillings. To make a triangle, the layered, buttered dough is cut down the long edge into 3 inch (6 cm) strips. The filling is placed at the bottom then folded as if folding a flag. By the time the other end of the strip is reached, the filling has been encased in several folds of dough. This is then brushed with butter and baked until golden.
Baklava is probably the most famous sweet baked in filo dough. This can be baked in a whole pan or the chopped nuts, usually pistachio or walnuts, and cinnamon can be encased in filo parcels and drenched in sweet sugar based syrup after baking. Small strudels can also be made using fruit such as pears and apples. Filo parcels can be eaten hot or cold and are commonly used in Greece as finger food, appetizers and lunch box fillers. Larger spanakopites or tiropites made with cheese are popular snacks.
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