Phyllo (also spelled filo) is a pastry as thin as a leaf (which is what "phyllo" means) and is a time- consuming and skilled pastry-making art in Greece. Phyllo and phyllolike pastry is used commonly throughout the Near and Middle East, but are most often associated with Greek cooking. Today, excellent commercially made phyllo is available in many supermarket frozen foods sections and certainly in Greek and Middle Eastern markets. Because phyllo is so thin and fragile you must work with more care than with other doughs.
Commercial phyllo is usually sold in 1-pound
packages wrapped in plastic. It freezes well, so defrost it slowly in
the box. Most sheets of dough are 14 x 18-inches and each recipe will
instruct how to cut these sheets. Once you have opened the package, the
phyllo sheets can dry out so quickly as to become brittle and useless.
Remove the number of sheets you will need and set them to the side covered
with a damp kitchen towel to provide moisture.
To re-wrap unused phyllo requires a bit more wrapping than usual. The packaging must be air-tight. Rewrap tightly in a long sheet of plastic wrap making sure no areas are exposed. Wrap in platic wrap two more times, tightly, then finally wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Refrigerate or refreeze the phyllo you are not using. While working with phyllo pastry work quicker than you usually do with other pastry.
Brush each sheet with melted butter or olive oil as you work with it, folding according to the directions in the recipe. You might find it quicker to dedicate a 2-inch-wide brush for buttering phyllo pastry. Make sure all parts of the phyllo pastry in the baking pan or tray that are exposed to air are brushed with butter or oil so they do not become brittle while baking.