phyllo

When a person thinks of phyllo dough, they usually think of baklava. Or the fabulous Greek dish spanakopita. Or lovely hors d’ouevres like Martha Stewart’s phyllo triangles filled with curried walnut chicken. All very impresssive dishes — which is why many people are intimidated about working with phyllo. But they needn’t be. Working with phyllo isn’t the daunting task one would imagine. Here’s everything you need to know to get started:

Phyllo (or filo) dough can be found in the frozen food section of most supermarkets. It must be defrosted, in its original packaging, before use. Ideally, you should defrost packaged phyllo in the refrigerator overnight. But in a pinch, you may defrost it at room temperature, which takes approximately 4 hours.

Make sure your recipe and all of your ingredients are ready before removing the phyllo dough from its packaging. Be prepared to work without interruption.

Slide the phyllo out of the box. Carefully unroll the dough. Gently lift off one sheet at a time. While you’re working, cover unused sheets with damp paper toweling to keep them from drying out.

Most recipes call for several layers of phyllo with melted butter or oil in between. Once you’ve brushed a phyllo sheet with butter or oil, the dough will not dry out. Don’t fret if a sheet tears a little in the process. Phyllo is very forgiving, and you are not likely to notice the imperfection in your finished product.

Leftover phyllo can be rolled up in plastic wrap and wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. It will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.