Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 14, 2010

Technique: Handling Filo

Once you handle filo dough with confidence, the world is your oyster (the world of the kitchen, anyway). You’ll make appetizers ahead, and enormous volumes of baklavas for the charity bake sales. You will look like a better cook than you are just by adding this one technique. Who’s in?

Find a reputable source for your filo dough. Buy it frozen, try to get the kind with only ingredients and no additives. But the way your merchant handles this product ultimately determines whether you’re covered with shame or glory when you serve dishes made with filo. Once it begins to defrost, filo tends to become gummy where it refreezes the next time it thaws. Hence your desire for a reputable merchant. This may vary from branch to branch of the same chain. Always test your assumption about the quality of your filo before your target production deadline.

The only substance more difficult to find a consistent source for from the frozen baking section is whole wheat filo dough. Even when it’s in great shape, the whole wheat filo has a tendency to crumble and shatter. This is advanced filo handling.

Prepare your work space before you get going. Lay out overlapping strips of plastic wrap, or newspaper. You’re going to use spray oil, instead of melted butter and a pastry brush. You want to keep the oil from getting all over and into everything. Hang and fix with masking tape more newspaper from the cabinets framing your work surface.

Open the filo package. Unroll the filo. Lay it down on a prepared location with either a plastic wrap or wax paper lining. Top with the same material, so that none of the dough is exposed. Cover this with a barely damp kitchen towel. Don’t allow the dough to come into direct contact with the towel. Don’t leave the dough exposed to the air (it’s very thin and dries quickly when exposed to the air for very many minutes). Work rapidly and precisely and you’ll find the filo is a quick solution to lots of sophisticated cooking problems.

Use a pizza wheel to cut the filo sheets into strips when you’re making freezer-to-table appetizers. Use that same pizza wheel to trim filo sheets in batches to fit your sided cookie sheets. Use organic spray oil in a can after laying down each sheet of filo, and before folding it into its presentation shape.

Let individual appetizers freeze in a single layer on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bag them into likely portion volumes and date them–as well as specifying the filling, since many filo appetizers look disconcertingly alike when they’re simply flag folded.

Baklavas and other filo sweets store well in sealed containers on beds of parchment paper for up to five days. Don’t be afraid to make them ahead, since they actually ripen a little over the next couple of days. Holding them too long will result in stale, flat, overly-sweet product come the day. Plan a little ahead and this is easily avoided.

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