I truly have no idea why, but whenever the weather gets extremely hot – like middle-of-the-summer hot – I begin to fantasize about baking with filo dough and round brik (thin Tunisian pastry) dough.
That’s why I like to keep a package of frozen filo dough on hand in my freezer. All that’s left to do is prepare some type of tasty filling, and I end up with pastries that are both beautiful and delicious.
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Actually, I think my love for baking with filo comes from my mother, who often made pastries using brik pastry dough, cooking them on a heavy iron skillet. I used to love watching her skillfully prepare the thin, translucent, slightly crumpled sheets of dough.
She’d then wrap the sheets in a damp cloth and place them in a plastic bag, so they’d stay moist for a few days in the fridge. That way, whenever she wanted to quickly bake some pastries, she’d take a few pieces out from the pile and in no time, our family would be treated to a full plate of warm, crispy burekas made with fried eggs or spicy mashed potatoes.
Nowadays, almost no one has time to prepare their own pastry dough at home; and anyway, it’s easy enough to purchase a pack of frozen filo at the grocery store. This dough is stretchy and pliable, which makes it great for creating whatever shape or design your heart desires.
I love using a different filling each time I make pastries. Since the filo does not have much taste of its own, you can use fillings with any flavor you want, and it’s easy to make dairy, meat, or parve pastries. When the pastries have turned golden brown, it’s time to take them out of the oven. And I must admit, there’s really nothing quite like taking a bite of a hot pastry that crunches delightfully between your teeth.
This week, I am bringing you three recipes that are all pretty quick to prepare. The first is for filo dough bowls stuffed with onion and tofu. I actually put this recipe together recently, when I was hosting a festive meal and was notified last minute that one of the guests joining us was vegan.
The second recipe is for filo bow ties with cheese and thyme. I came up with this one day when I was preparing something else and ended up with an entire extra sheet of leftover filo, so I played around with it. I ended up cutting it into strips, which I then tied around the pastries so they would look like bow ties.
The third recipe is for baklava fingers with cheese and rosewater syrup, which is a great sweet pastry to make with filo. This baklava is even better served with a scoop of ice cream.
Filo dough bowls with onion and tofu
Makes 12-14 individual bowls.
- 1 pack seasoned tofu (if using regular tofu, you’ll want to add seasoning)
- 5-6 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. honey or unsweetened silan
- 1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce or pomegranate concentrate
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. brewing yeast (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3-4 sheets filo dough
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
Cut tofu into medium-sized pieces. Rinse and dry well.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a deep pan and add the tofu pieces. Sauté for a few minutes until they brown, then transfer them to a bowl.
Add another 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and sauté the onion and garlic until they brown. Add the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of water and sauté, stirring continuously. Pour the tofu pieces back into the pan and mix well.
Add the silan or honey, soy sauce, ginger, cumin, and yeast, and continue stirring. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Spread the filo sheet on your work surface and spray it with oil spray (or brush on oil). Place another sheet of filo dough on top of the first one and spray it with oil. Add one or two more layers, then slice the filo dough sheets into four rectangles.
Take a muffin tin and turn it over. Then, brush oil on four of the mounds, and around each mound. Take the four dough rectangles and drape each one over a mound. Press them firmly around the mound so they take on the shape of a bowl.
Bake the filo dough bowls in an oven that has been preheated to 190° for 12-15 minutes, until they’ve turned golden brown. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
Fill each bowl with the tofu stir-fry. Top with a bit of chopped parsley. Serve hot.
Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 30 minutesStatus: Parve
Filo bow ties with cheese and thyme
Even though this dish looks difficult, it’s actually quite simple. It does require a bit of creativity, which makes it fun to do with kids home from school for the summer.
Makes 12 ties.
- 1 container (250 gr.) Bulgarian or other cheese
- 8 sprigs of thyme
- 12 sheets of filo dough
- 1 sheet of filo dough
- Olive oil spray or olive oil
Cut cheese into 4cm x 4cm cubes.
Remove the thyme leaves from the stems.
Spread a sheet of filo dough on your work surface and spray it with olive oil. Spread the thyme leaves in a row along one of the edges, then add another sheet of filo dough and spray it with olive oil. Cut the dough in half, and place a cube of cheese on all 4 corners of each rectangle, but not too close to the edge of the dough.
Roll up the dough starting from the side that’s farther from you, until it reaches the middle. Then, roll up the dough from the side closest to you until it also reaches the middle. Next, take a sharp knife and slice down the middle between the two tubes. Now, pinch the dough in the middle between the cheese cubes, so that it looks like a bow tie. Prepare the rest of the bow ties in the same fashion.
Spray the last filo dough sheet, cut it in half, then into thin strips. Use the strips to wrap around the pinched part of each bow tie.
Arrange the bow ties on a baking tray covered with baking paper, making sure they are not too close to one another. Bake them in an oven that has been preheated to 190° for 10-13 minutes, making sure not to let them burn. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey. Serve hot.
Level of difficulty: Difficult (because of decorating step)Time: 30 minutesStatus: Dairy
Baklava fingers with cheese & rosewater
Makes 8 pieces.
- 8 filo sheets
- Oil spray
- 1 container mascarpone cheese
- 2 Tbsp. instant vanilla pudding powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2-3 Tbsp. milk to dilute filling (optional)
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup pistachios, roasted and crushed
- Rose petals
Mix all the filling ingredients together. If too thick, you can dilute it with a little bit of milk.
Place a sheet of filo dough on your work surface, and then spray it with oil. Place another filo sheet on top of the first one. Cut the dough diagonally into 2 triangles. Place 1 or 2 spoonfuls of filling along the longest leg of the triangle and roll it up, starting with the side closest to you. Prepare all of the fingers in the same fashion. Grease a baking pan and arrange the stuffed cheese fingers so that they are all touching each other.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 190° for 15-20 minutes. Remove them and let them cool down, then pour syrup on top. Garnish with pistachio pieces and rose petals. Store in the fridge until serving.
Delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 40 minutesStatus: Dairy
Translated by Hannah Hochner.