Filo dough is a type of pastry dough used in many different Greek dishes. It may also be called puff pastry, for its light and fluffy texture, or be spelled phyllo. This dough is a combination of flour, cornstarch, water, and oil. Cooks who are good with pastry may find that making this dough may not be much of a challenge, but those who do not have the time or the "knack" may find it readily available in the freezer or refrigerator sections of must supermarkets.
Both sweet and savory pastries are made with filo dough in traditional Greek cooking. It is wrapped around spinach, onions, and goat cheese to make delectable spanakopita. Layered dough is used to make baklava, the crunchy desert, made of layers of filo with the addition of honey and either walnuts or pine nuts.
Other cultures have embraced the thin, flaky dough in their cooking. Today’s streusels are almost always composed of layers of this dough, and it may be used as the exterior for turnovers. The dough makes a good substitute for butter or lard crusts for those who are vegans and avoid any animal byproducts. Often, it is the preferred choice for covering Beef Wellington.
Some cooks feel challenged using even the premade versions of the dough. It does have a tendency to dry out very quickly when it is exposed to air, and when the dough becomes too warm, it can be difficult to roll. Most cookbooks suggest that cooks give themselves a lot of room when working with it. A big kitchen table, or a center island countertop may offer one the best chance of success.
When a cook removes a layer of filo dough for the beginning of layering or stuffing, the rest of the dough should be placed back in the refrigerator and recovered. A slightly damp cloth should be placed on top of the exposed dough to keep it from drying. Baklava, though it seems intricate, is actually one of the easiest ways to first use this product. The layered dish does not require working much with the dough except to transfer the layers to a baking dish.
Most filo dough is brushed with butter or margarine, though some chefs prefer to use egg whites. This brushing step is again necessary to keep the dough from drying out. When baked, it puffs into multiple tiny layers that many people find both attractive and quite enjoyable to eat. Once a cook is familiar with this product, there are any number of appetizers, main dishes and desserts to make with it.
Since pre-made dough comes frozen, it can be used to create frozen dishes that can be stored for a few weeks and cooked only as necessary. The ability to freeze the dough sometimes depends upon the recipe and ingredients used, as extra ingredients may not freeze well. Most traditional offerings, like spanakopita, do freeze well and will bake nicely when needed. By itself, filo can be kept for up to two months in the freezer, and will generally keep for at least two weeks in the refrigerator.