Homemade filo dough is completely different to the sheets you buy a packet. Tender not papery, moist and chewy not dry. It is very forgiving to work with (holes in the pastry don’t matter) and easy to roll out in a pasta machine. Great for wrapping healthy pies, börek and other pastry treats.
Nothing at all like the insubstantial, sharp, tasteless shards created when shop-bought filo/phyllo is baked. Cool, flavourful and soft, but still thin and delicate, it is a revelation.
The secret is rolling out the pastry with a pasta machine. I thought my rolling skills were sufficient, that the pieces of pastry I had created were thin enough. Not even close. I think my ‘thin’ sheets were actually about 5 times too thick. So a pasta machine is the answer, rolling the pastry out incrementally to the 6th or 7th setting. The 7th setting is best, but the dough is quite hard to work with at that thickness.
With the delicacy of the dough in mind, be sure to keep everything well floured. Don’t go crazy or anything, it’s always best to use a little flour as possible to complete the task at hand, just sprinkle a light coating of flour over everything regularly, bearing in mind this dough is very keen to stick to both the pasta rollers and your worktop. Both of these scenarios are extremely frustrating.
Don’t worry too much about tears (unless their yours!) or misshapen pastry as in most applications the pastry will be folded over or built in multiple layers. To further mitigate against sticking, however, roll out and fill only one sheet of pastry at a time. Be sure to keep the rest of the dough loosely covered while you work so it doesn’t dry out.
I use some version of this pastry pretty much every week. Either this recipe or my Whole wheat filo dough for an extra healthy, whole grain boost.
It is amazing wrapped around flavourful vegetable fillings like in this Spinach and feta pie (pictured below) or arranged into flaky layers in this Mushroom Wellington.
- 400 g strong white bread flour
- boiling water as needed I used about 250g
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cornflour to roll out the dough
- Add the flour to a food processor and with the blades running, start adding the water. You want to add enough water to make a moist and supple dough. If the dough is too sticky, you will struggle to roll it out. If you add too much water, just add a little more flour to adjust the texture. Knead the dough – either in a machine for about 5 minutes or by hand for about 10 minutes. Rest for about 30 minutes before rolling.
- When you are ready to roll, set up your pasta machine. Work with one piece of dough at a time. Treat the dough in much the same way as you would pasta, running each piece through the machine on setting 1, then folding and running through again, until the dough is supple and looks even. This step effectively kneads the dough again before you roll it out.
- Keeping everything lightly dusted with cornflour, work your way through the settings on the pasta machine, getting the dough as thin as possible. I can usually get the dough up to setting 6 on my machine, but after that the dough can become churned by the rollers. Very annoying!
- Use these gorgeous, thin pastry strips to wrap pies and börek – baking instructions vary with the recipe, so are not included here.