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What Are the Best Tips for Making Filo Desserts?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2017
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There are several tricks to making delicious desserts using filo dough, some relating to the care and handling of the dough, others having to do with the selection of ingredients used to add flavor to the filo. Making filo dough from scratch is tricky, but not impossible, although many cooks prefer to use dough purchased at a store. Assembling filo desserts requires careful preparation and great speed. Filo pastries are normally associated with Greek or Turkish desserts, but the dough can be used to stand in for other types of pastry dough as well.

Traditional dough for filo desserts is made mostly from flour and water. This dough is then stretched meticulously by hand into sheets as thin as parchment. These sheets are very fragile, and the technique of making them by hand requires a good deal of practice to master.

Most home cooks do not have the time to make traditional dough but can produce a perfectly serviceable alternative using a pasta machine or rolling pin. The same basic recipe can be used. Rolling proceeds either by hand or by using successive pasta machine settings but stops with a very thin, rather than parchment-like, dough. This dough is much easier to prepare and is distinguishable from traditional filo dough mostly by its appearance rather than its flavor or baking characteristics.

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Another common alternative to making dough for filo desserts from scratch is the use of pre-packaged frozen dough. This type of dough is mass-produced and generally of good quality. It dough should be thawed before use.

When preparing filo desserts, it is essential to work quickly. Filo dough, especially traditional dough, dries very, very rapidly. When assembling a dessert, all ingredients should be made ready and centrally located before the dough is opened or uncovered. Once the dough is exposed to air, time is of the essence, and a cook should move rapidly to build the layers of a baklava or similar dessert. Dough should be left in a package or covered with a moist cloth until the moment it is needed.

Some tricks are available for cooks who are in a hurry or who must produce a great many desserts. Traditional filo desserts usually call for each layer of dough to be treated with butter. Some cooks save a bit of time by adding butter to one or two layers only and allowing the baking process to melt the butter throughout the pastry. Cooks on a budget, or running short of ingredients, may opt to replace the honey that is typically used in filo desserts with a simple syrup cooked down from sugar and water.

A majority of filo desserts are based on flavors from the eastern Mediterranean and call for nuts, sweet fruit, and honey. Filo dough is versatile, however, and can be used as a substitute for other types of light and flaky pastry dough, if needed. Strudels, for instance, can be made easily using this light flaky dough.

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