The lost art of making phyllo dough by hand

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/14/the-lost-art-of-making-phyllo-dough-by-hand.html

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after i finally learned how to make pasta, which was good but the ratio of improvement over mass-produced to the difficulty of doing it was too low to make me want to do it often (unlike marshmallows for which the ratio is so high i never use the mass-produced), i gave phyllo dough a try . . . and no.

it was like the time i took organic chemistry, rarely in my life have i worked so hard to achieve failure.

i tip my hat to hatziparaskos. i can only admire an artisan so wonderfully practiced in their craft.

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I spent a very memorable month in Greece back in the 90’s, including a week in Athens. I still think about the Greek pastries we ate from a different pastry shop every day. There was a different shop on almost every street.
One of my favorites was Kataïfi: Almond and Walnut Pastry in Syrup which looks like this:


I had never seen how the thin strands were made until seeing the spinning device in this video.
Super cool!

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this is stunningly impressive. i struggle with basic stuff involving pastry dough… he makes it look so effortless. i had to laugh – of course he has to take a rest between cycles around the table! that’s a lot of physical labor for an 80+ year old!

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Whenever i see a baking/cooking show and the talent is challenged to make phyllo dough my gut reaction is to feel dread for them. It’s such a notoriously difficult dough to make. But watching this video i am glad to see that little shop and the owner’s dedication and mastery over such an incredibly difficult food, i hope they make it through the pandemic :frowning:

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Rough puff has similarly flaky mouthfeel, can be used for both savory and sweet, and always feels like a magic trick. Butter, salt, water, flour. It is not baklava or phyllo dough, it doesn’t do the loveliness of honey with phyllo, but it is magic. https://recipepocket.com/easy-rough-puff-pastry-recipe/

More buttery recipes exist, for extra extra richness. I’ve done it enough that I eyeball it instead of weighing, and when I mess up, it just tastes like a really nice pie crust with less flakiness than puff pastry. If you’re first starting, measure it carefully.

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I’ve never had that at a Greek place, but I have at a Turkish and Egyptian one, amazing the cross pollination around the med…

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My Greek grandmother told me, “When you can see the tablecloth through the phyllo, you know it’s right.”
She would drape the phyllo sheets over the furniture to dry. It looked like her house had been visited by insane artisanal house painters.

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I’d say it’s not so much crosspollination as a singular gradient of culture. Even if the Greeks and the Turkish in particular don’t like to hear that.

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True enough. Given how much fighting and butchering and colonizing and occupation has taken place all around the Mediterranean throughout history, it’s a miracle any of them will even still speak to each other.

Armenians hate the Turks (with good reason)
Greeks hate the Albanians
Egyptians hate the Italians
Moroccans and Spanish
French and everybody
Everybody and Germans (except Germans are now major tourists throughout the region)
Cyprus and Turks.
It’s a long, long list of grievances.

Well, we don’t generally count as a Mediterranean people

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Ha! No, but there are a few Mediterranean countries who remember one or two of your excursions. No offense intended in a somewhat overly broad attempt at regional history.

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Now I want Galaktoboureko and I won’t be satisfied until the syrup makes my teeth ache.

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The technique they use to put a bubble under the dough is similar to what I see more traditional pizzerias use. They’ll quickly lift one side like a bedsheet and put a bubble under it. I noticed and asked why they were doing it, but I can’t remember why.

Even the Frankies recommend using store-bought pastas unless you’re making something special like Cavatelli.

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I think the effort to make pasta however is not quite the same as making phyllo dough. Might be more of a pain if you’re manually doing everything with pasta but a good stand mixer and a pasta roller should make it an easier enterprise. With phyllo i can’t think of any shortcuts beyond just buying the damn thing lol.

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None taken

When my kids were little, my wife and I would make a phyllo dough strudel every major holiday. It took forever and the dining room table was what we used to stretch the dough. Paper thin, but a few rips (small) here and there would show up. Inevitable I suppose, but it did not mar the final yummy pastry.

My wife and I marvel now that we ever had the energy to do this.

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Greeks hate the Turks, definitely - 400 years of occupation will do that. Of course, it’s more complicated than that (many Greeks have Turkish ancestors). They also hate the Albanians (for much the same reason), with less justification.

Especially since the local argot in my FIL’s village (close to Athens) is basically Albanian. Everyone speaks Greek, is Greek, but day to day most people switch between Greek and an Albanian variant, often in the same sentence. This is not uncommon, largely due to the ethnic cleansing stuff that happened post WW1 - lots of Greeks came from other parts of the former Ottoman Empire like Turkey and Albania etc.

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But I’ve often got directions in Mediterranean countries from locals and they have mentioned the “German beach”. Quite common!

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You forgot about the Kurds.

(I know it’s a shortened list, but unfortunately the Turkish government really would prefer that the world forgets about the Kurds.)

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