Last summer, while shooting TV segments on Turkish cuisine, I gained a newfound appreciation for the art of making baklava. Each of those gooey crispy squares are the product of a labor of love, requiring time, patience, skill, a large amount of counter space and a whole lot of rolling. And as much as I love eating baklava, I’m not sure I ever want to make it from scratch, unless it’s for a very special occasion, or there’s a blizzard and I have an entire Saturday to kill.
Homemade dough has distinct advantages — you can’t beat the finished product — but for most of us laypeople, packaged phyllo dough is an acceptable alternative. It crisps up beautifully, and provided you give it the proper amount of time to thaw, is fairly idiot-proof.
The other day I bought a package, inspired by this recipe on Hilah Cooking for spanakopita, the Greek pastry stuffed with spinach and feta. In my version I used nonfat feta and ricotta — not as good as the real thing, but the brushed olive oil on the phyllo dough gives it the richness it needs.
The dough is very simple to use — you stack up several layers, brushing with olive oil each time, spread the spinach mixture around, and then layer some more.
The Hilah recipes gives a very useful tip of cutting the spanakopita into squares before baking it in the oven.
45 minutes later and it’s flaky, golden brown and ready to eat.
And that’s it — a quite painless and quite delicious weeknight meal. With packaged phyllo dough. I’m leaving the homemade to the professionals.