9 April 2010

Fun with Phyllo, part 2

Posted in C-boy, food at 11:41 pm by Tricia

Since my Turkish cheese pies didn’t use up my whole box of phyllo, I decided to use some for a dessert. All the baklava-and-cousins in The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook seemed too intimidating, so I thought I might throw together something vaguely like an apple strudel. While pondering, I came across an intriguing recipe in my Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts (source of the impressive looking, versatile, yet easy chocolate fruit purses): nut and fruit filled filo pastry. Then I forgot about this plan entirely, and left the rolled-and-still-thawing fillo on the counter, where it stayed until my husband rescued it the next day and stashed it in the fridge. Today I finally took the time to make this dessert – only to find we had no honey! It required visits to three different neighbors to find some, but then I got to work. (I’ll type the recipe as I made it with original in parentheses.)

Nut and Fruit Filled Filo Pastry

1 cup pecans + 1/2 cup pine nuts (originally: 1.5 cups whole almonds)
8 oz dried fruit – mix of apricots, peaches, mangoes (orig: apricots)
2 Tab packed brown sugar
3 Tab honey {or 2.5 if you want to go easy on the neighbors’ stash!}
2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 sheets filo pastry
4 to 5 Tab butter, melted


2 tsps dried orange rind (orig: peel from 1 orange, cut into strips)
1/4 cup (fresh) orange juice
1/2 cup sugar {I used a mix of demerara and white sugar}


Toast the nuts in a 350° F oven for about 10 minutes. Cool for several minutes, then finely chop the nuts.

If you are using a food processor, process the fruit, sugar, honey, and cinnamon until finely chopped (otherwise, mince fruit and stir with same). Stir in the nuts (you might want to mix them in via the food processor – the recipe wasn’t clear on this!).

(If you used a toaster oven for the nuts, you should start preheating your main oven to 350F about now.) On a dry flat surface, stack 2 sheets of fillo and brush the top sheet with melted butter. In a thin, even line about 1 inch from a long edge of the buttered filo, spread a generous 3/4 cup of the filling. Roll up the phyllo to form a long thin roll. Carefully lift the roll into the pie pan and curve it to fit along the perimeter of the pan. Lightly brush the roll with butter [I didn’t]. Repeat the above procedure to make 3 more rolls, coiling each into the pie pan to form a one-layer, spiraled pastry. Butter each roll as you go. [I brushed on remaining butter at the end.] Nestled close together, all four rolls should neatly fit into the pie pan, with the end of the last roll finishing in the center. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and lightly browned.

While the pastry bakes, make the syrup. Combine the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat (and strain, if using strips of peel).

Pour the syrup over the pastry as soon as it comes out of the oven, then cool. Serve at room temperature, cut into narrow wedges.

Remember how my fillo got left out on the counter? It dried out a bit, and split apart where it had been folded. Plus, instead of using 10 sheets cut into thirds when making the börek, I’d cut off a third of the not-quite-defrosted stack, so the filo was only 2/3rd the original width. That meant that it was basically impossible to follow the steps as written. So what I did instead was take the pathetic third-width strips, spread a few narrow tablespoons of filling, then roll them up. And even then, the phyllo barely covered the filling, so I would wrap it with another strip or two, then place it in the pie pan. I did end up with a spiraled pastry, but it was not Moosewood Level Lovely by any stretch! But the end result was quite delicious – not as sweet as I feared, and an interesting mix of textures and flavors.

I also ended up with leftover filling, so I decided to make a quick layered version in a square baking pan. For that, I stacked some overlapping layers of fillo (at least 4 deep, buttered after every couple of layers), then piled on the rest of the filling, then topped it with some more layers of phyllo and butter. I baked this 30 minutes as well, and cut it baklava-style while it was still hot. (Cutting method: cut into quarters in one direction, then cut diagonally (5 cuts) to end up with diamond shapes.) I haven’t tried this yet, but unless the filling was much too meager I’m expecting it will be similarly tasty. However, between a pie pan and an 8×8 baking dish, we’re going to have to share this with the neighbors!

Fun with Fillo, Part 3: my oddly creative 12yo son looked at some squares of fillo that I’d discarded, and asked if it was edible. I told him it was basically just flour and water so wouldn’t taste very good, but yes it was edible. Next he took down a tube of food coloring. When I asked what he was up to, he told me he wanted to write a message on the dough then eat it. Why? I still have no clue. But he used a toothpick and food coloring and tried it out. I didn’t get a chance to read the message (or take a photo!), but he was pleased with his experiment and that’s what counts in the end.


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