Phyllo dough can be a tricky medium to work for many a home chef. Purists will want to bake their own while those looking for a shortcut will buy it. What makes for good flaky layers that works well with both savory and sweet dishes.
Famed chef and baker Yottam Ottolenghi posed this question on his article in today's New York Times Food section. His training in cooking school has allowed him to create the famed layers but not without flaws. Phyllo dough is simply flour ,salt and water mixed with olive oil and rolled out until it's paper thin.It's one of the world's oldest recipes and bread recipes.Chef Ottolenghi tried with some of the best phyllo makers st one of the most celebrated baklava factories, Karakoy Gulloglu in Istanbul, Turkey The chief ,baker, Mustafa, a fifth generation baker, believes that a combination of "hard work, attention, meticulous care and love." It's more the meticulous care that creates the perfect sheets. . Do it wrong and you could wind up with holes as Chef Ottolenghi first had during his schooling. There is another way of creating phyllo or warka as its' called in Morocco.It's similar to the way crepes are made using a red hot pan.The phyllo dough is tapped upon it until the pan is completely covered.. The chef learned the cheat way , thanks to a Moroccan home chef called Fouza. Put a frying pan over boiling water and pour a scant amount of the batter into the pan. The result is the perfect paper thin piece.
Another method is buying it, ready made , Chef Ottolenghi suggests getting a good brand, one that is of good quality. How can you tell? By the scrunch test. Scrunch a sheet in one hand. If it's of good quality , it'll spring apart. A bad piece will be brittle and will easily fall apart. Remember to liberally brush it with melted butter which allows the sheets to separate and rise in the oven.Work quickly when brushing them or they'll dry out. Chef Ottolenghi gives two recipes - one savory and one sweet. The savory is a feta and herb tart.It not only has the lightly tangy feta but also grated pecorino Romano cheese.mixed with such herbs as tarragon, mint and parsley . An egg custard is made with four eggs, milk and cheese. The sweet version is what else - baklava. except there's a twist.Chef Ottolenghi adds halloumi , the Egyptian version of mozzarella.It's mild and slightly salty - which cuts the sweetness of the rosewater drizzled on the tart. There still is the traditional filling of chopped walnuts mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg mixed together with melted butter. The baklava would make a lovely Mother's Day treat, thanks to sprinkling dried rose petals on top.
Phyllo dough can be made by any home chef. Beginners should try the warka way while more experienced can execute the traditional method. Then experiment with savory and sweet dishes.