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Phyllo Dough: Luscious Layers
Many Mediterranean dishes come wrapped in the crisp, flaky dough known as phyllo. Unwrap some of its thin layers with Groupon’s look at the Greek staple.
Phyllo dough is like tissue paper, delicately wrapping packages of sweet and savory fillings inside its oil-brushed sheets. The wafer-thin dough is perhaps best recognized for its role in baklava¬¬—a dessert layered with chopped nuts and honey or syrup—and spanakopita—a savory spinach pie. But beyond Greece, it has plenty of cross-cultural appeal; it also crops up in streusels and beef wellington, for instance. Generally thought to be of Greek origin (its name derived from “leafo,” the Greek word for leaf) some accounts place phyllo dough’s origins in Turkey or Assyria more than a millennium ago. As you might expect from such an ancient dish, the basic recipe is simple: flour, water, and oil, mixed and laboriously rolled until the sheet of dough is transparent and broad.
Modern phyllo factories may employ a combination of man and machine or an all-mechanical method. With the former, although mixers and rollers help knead and flatten the dough, it’s up to skilled workers to stretch the sheets to paper thinness across a square table about 1.5 times as large as a king-size mattress and 75% less comfortable. The sheets are then rolled one by one onto a long wooden plank, which is later removed so that the sheets can be sliced into bundles. The mechanical method uses a more extensive system of rollers and infrared drying lamps to rid the dough of moisture. Once made, phyllo can be fickle—it dries out very quickly, sometimes within a matter of minutes, which is why frozen varieties are more common in grocery stores.