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Phyllo dough (Recipe: phyllo nests topped with sorbet)



Fee low PHO bee yah.

Do you have it, the fear of phyllo dough, the fear of poking your finger through the paper-thin pastry and making a hole that cannot be repaired, the fear of letting the flaky dough dry out and crack, the fear of shredding the dough with a paintbrush as you add melted butter to each layer?

You are not alone. I used to be phyllophobic, too.

It's irrational, of course, like my fear of heights, or of mice, or of ham. But, unlike those fears, I've overcome my fear of phyllo.

And I'm so glad I did.


Phyllo, the Greek word for "leaf", is made of wheat flour, water, and a small amount of oil. In my local Middle Eastern market, I've heard people ask for FEE-loh (the correct pronunciation) and FIE loh and FILL-o. All the same thing.

Cleveland-based Athens Foods makes more than 90 percent of the phyllo dough sold in the United States -- all told, more than five million pounds a year, available in most supermarket freezer aisles. They label theirs fillo; other times, you'll see it spelled phillo or filo.

Store phyllo in the freezer, in the original packaging. Defrost it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Defrosted phyllo will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Unwrap the dough, unroll it, and cover it immediately with a damp (not dripping wet) dish towel. Let the dough stand for 15 minutes; moisture makes it easier to handle.

With a little bit of advance planning to defrost the dough, you'll be ready to plunge fearlessly into Greek leek pie, samosa cigars, spinach and pecan mini tarts, shrimp in phyllo with tomato chutney, spanikopita, and baklava.


Phyllo nests

Another great baked dessert I learned from my friend Cindy, a fearless pastry chef. You'll need one sheet of phyllo per person, plus a few extra sheets for practice. If your dough is in the freezer, remember to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or follow package instructions for defrosting. By using canola spray instead of butter, you can create a very low-fat dessert; simply top each nest with your favorite sorbet or low-fat frozen yogurt.


1 sheet of phyllo dough per person
Canola oil spray
Granulated or demarara sugar (optional)
Confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner (Silpat) or parchment paper.

Lay one piece of rectangular dough flat on your countertop, with the longer side parallel to the edge of the counter in front of you. Spray liberally with canola spray (this replaces the melted butter that's usually used to lubricate the dough, so don't be afraid to spray a lot). Using both hands, pinch the dough lengthwise to make a long scrunched-up strip; then wrap the ends around to touch each other. This will make a very rustic nest.




Spray again, liberally, with the canola spray, and sprinkle with granulated or demarara sugar. Place on the baking sheet. Continue with each sheet of phyllo; you will be able to fit 6 nests on a standard size baking sheet.

Bake for 6 minutes, until the nests are lightly golden but not burned. Let cool for a few minutes, dust with confectioners sugar if you wish, then top with your favorite sorbet.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Tyropita (cheese phyllo triangles)
One-bite vegetable quiche
Teeny tiny lime tarts
Asparagus gruyere tart
Mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry

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I love the idea of these little sorbet nests for dessert! Perfect for spring-right around the corner!

oh this is such a grand idea! the sorbets get their own beds! genius!

Cute little nests!

isn't it funny how everything is better when it is small?
...and why would anyone make phyllo from scratch when such great products already exist!
I am inspired. I will make little "one-bite" desserts for a guest I am having this weekend with some extra homemade apple pie filling that I made and froze!(the thawed consistency of the filling would probably not be suitable for an actual pie anyway)

The phyllo dough from Trader Joe's (when it's there) is also excellent!

Lydia, good tips. I think half the battle with phyllo is won by just seeking (getting) phyllo that's from a store with high turnover = fresh phyllo.

Oh my goodness. I think I have been mispronouncing "phyllo" forever. Whoops. Thanks for the great tips on using feee-lo!

I'm so glad your conquering your fears! This is a great dessert for non-bakers! Looks great. Something I do with phyllo also, is sprinkle a little sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder between the layers to give it extra flavor -- and the sugar caramelizes for a little extra snap.

I confess - I am a Phyllophobic.

Lydia, you're killing us with these desserts! Not that my own blog is much better! LOL

How beautiful Lydia. That's quite an eye-catching dessert. I have a different phi- lo-pho-bia...one that emanates from not getting the ready made sheets here. Unheard of, so I fear I might just end up rolling some out one day!!

That really is a wonderful idea, it came out looking beautiful! Thanks.

What a clever idea! And you could put almost anything in it, like custard (with or without fruit) or something like chicken a la king (not for dessert, obviously). Though I suppose if the filling is too liquid it might leak, but who cares? It would taste good and you could call the "leaks" decoration! After all, don't chefs have bottles to spray things all over the plate before putting the food on? This way the food could decorate itself.

Gorgeous! I love your phyllo nest but that sorbet is as beautiful as jewelry...I would totally wear it :)

I love phyllo, don't use it as often as I could (or should) and LOVE your step-by-step photos included here. This is such an elegant way to present dessert, as these phyllo nests are divine. I can definitely put this tip to good use!

Those are cute, and the sorbet in the first picture looks amazing.

This looks like a good introduction to phyllo for me. My kids would love the twist on ice cream cones!

Anytime you can serve each person their own dish it bumps everything up to the special! This is really great fun and each one will be unique! Love that sorbet!!

You've accurately identified the problem with filo as psychological - people think it's hard and are scared of it. Actually, filo is one of the most forgiving products ever. Tear it, break it, you name the abuse, filo can take it if you just address it with confidence. Love these little nest - showily good without much trouble!

I no longer have the phobia once I started working with it. These is a very, cute idea!

What I enjoyed about this dessert is the combination of the smoothness of the sorbet and the light crunchiness of the phyllo nest.

Phyllo is one of my favourite things - it is so magical to work with. Your desserts are beautiful! I love the green plates.

Beautiful! I would love to dive in with my spoon! :)

I've been phyllo-phobic for some time. Once I tried to make a lovely appetizer of phyllo wrapped asparagus - either there was paper in between, or I didn't separate the sheets properly, but the phyllo tasted like 67lb cover stock paper. We had to settle for cheese spread!

Beautiful presentation!!

Gorgeous photos of this dessert!

I used to be afraid of phyllo for the longest time, but its probably the most fun dough to work with (I'm sure I'd sing a different tune if I made it from scratch though!). And I definitely love it as a nest for sorbets and ice cream!

That phyllo nests looks really good!

Phyllo dough is sexy

Can anyone recommend some other good brands besides Athens? One person mentioned the Trader Joes brand- I didn't see it at my TJ's, was it a TJ's phyllo or something else?

i love phyllo! :D

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