Those tissue thin pastry sheets layered, stacked, wrapped and coiled into an endless variety of toothsome savory and sweet snacks, breakfast-to-goes, sides and entrees, Filo, Fillo, Phyllo is translated from the Greek, “leaf” and neatly describes this transparent pastry.
The earliest recipes and reference to stacking thin layers of dough was with nuts and honey, by the ancient Greeks as the sweetmeat called “gastrin”. Gastrin, a Cretan dessert described by Athenaeus in 500BC called for three thin layers of dough stacked with nuts, sesame and poppy seeds, and doused with honey.
Made from hard wheat flour, water and white vinegar, raki (a distilled alcohol) or lemon juice and salt, it is hard to believe that such a versatile and intricate pastry can be rolled, stretched or flattened into so many forms. The secret is butter or olive oil spread on alternate layers before the filling is laid and subsequent layers to finish off the dish.
At the Gardens, we sampled all the commercially prepared filo before selecting Athens brand as our standard. Prepared in two thicknesses, thin and thick, we us the thin style in layered and folded recipes and the thick in twisted recipes. Yes, we have made film from scratch “opening” first with a rolling pin and followed by a series of stretchings allowing the sheets to “rest” in between.