is the basis of the Greek, spanakopita (spinach and
feta enclosed in filo) as well as the famed, baklava
(a dessert in which filo is layered with nuts and spices,
baked, then drizzled with a honey syrup) When baked,
the dough puffs to flaky crisp layers so recipes made
with filo are both unique and memorable.
Filo dough is usually made with flour, water, salt,
egg, and sometimes vinegar, though its ingredients show
some variation. Preparing this dough depends on the
development of gluten from the proteins in flour. Thus
the dough is mixed and kneaded until it's pliable and
silky. The acids in vinegar also help increase the flexibility
of gluten so the dough stretches more easily.
Traditionally, filo was made by hand, stretching the
mixture into sheets with one's knuckles, rather than
the fingertips that are more likely to cause tears.
With consummate skill filo was cajoled into sheets so
fine that the baker's hands could be seen through the
One of the tricks in working with filo is keeping the
extra dough covered with a damp towel. You'll notice
as you work, that sheets of filo truly are like fine
paper, so thin they dry out quickly and then are more
likely to crack and tear as you fold them around a filling.
Brushing sheets of filo with melted butter not only
holds in moisture but also helps crisp the fragile layers
as the filo bakes in the oven.
Traditionally, filo is believed to have originated in
Turkey. Now, many variations exist as it has passed
through different cultures over many generations.
The process of making filo at home is laborious and
takes considerable skill. So today, most filo is purchased
ready-made. Occasionally, some bakeries still sell it
fresh, though most is found packaged and frozen. If
you buy it frozen leave it in the box to defrost overnight
in your refrigerator. When it thaws at room temperature,
the sheets are more likely to stick together. Should
you want to try making filo we suggest you post your
request for a recipe on the Forum.
Wishing you happy hours as you uncover the magic of
Regards, Anne and Sue