[Editor’s Note: Before we indulge you with the recipe for these Phyllo Crisps, we want to share a few words about the author’s history with phyllo.] Phyllo is the backbone of many Turkish desserts, and I have fond memories of it. When I was four years old, I would watch in wonder as my mom, my aunts, and my grandma stretched fresh phyllo on the tabletop and then layered it to make crisp, sweet baklava. Like raising a child, stretching fresh phyllo into its paper-thin wonder really does take a village—or at least a large family. I thank Buddha for good-quality store-bought phyllo every time I pull it out of the freezer.
Phyllo is so wonderfully crisp, and when baked with butter and glazed with the honey syrup, it’s addictive. I find these phyllo crisps much easier to make than baklava, as the pieces are more manageable and they can get really golden brown and crisp. You can use the resulting crisps to give texture to parfaits, layer them as a mille-feuille or napoleon, even place a stack on a cheese platter. Whatever you do, enjoy them, and imagine that a wide-eyed four-year-old is watching you make them.–Yigit Pura
LC Phyllo Phenom Note
We imagine all manner of occasions where these phyllo crisps would be welcome. In addition to the plate of assorted cheeses mentioned above, we’re thinking alongside a singular aged cheese as well as some sliced pears and toasted nuts. Or a cup of tea. Some fresh figs and Greek yogurt. We could go on, although actually, tell you what, why don’t you fill in the blank for this phyllo phenom, sorta like those choose-your-own-adventure stories. Just let us know in a comment below.
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange preferably organic
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus more for sprinkling
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough thawed according to package directions
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter melted
- 2 tablespoons pale, runny honey
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Have a second baking sheet ready.
- Combine the orange zest with the sugar in a small bowl, using your fingertips to rub the orange zest into the sugar to release its essential oils. Add the cinnamon and cardamom and mix to combine.
- Place 2 sheets phyllo on the parchment-lined baking sheet. (When working with phyllo, always keep a clean, moist kitchen towel over the stack of dough that you’re not handling. Phyllo is very thin and will dry out quickly, becoming brittle and impossible to work with.) Using a pastry brush, gently apply a thin layer of melted butter to the top sheet of phyllo and sprinkle liberally with some spiced sugar. Place another 2 sheets phyllo dough on top of the first layer and press lightly. Brush with a little more melted butter and sprinkle with more spiced sugar. Then top with 2 sheets phyllo and, once again, lightly brush with butter and sprinkle with spiced sugar. You may have some leftover spiced sugar.
- Completely cover the layered phyllo with damp paper towels or plastic wrap to prevent the fragile phyllo dough from drying out and cracking and refrigerate until the butter returns to a solid state, at least 10 minutes. (Don’t worry, the sugar didn’t stick to the damp paper towels, even though we thought it might.)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C).
- When the butter is solid, remove and discard the paper towels or plastic wrap. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut the layers into approximately 2-inch (5-centimeter) squares. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and the second baking sheet to weight the phyllo for baking— this ensures that they puff just enough to be flaky while still maintaining a crisp, linear look.
- Bake the phyllo crisps for 10 minutes. The crisps should be lightly browned, especially along the edges. Remove the top baking sheet and rotate the bottom baking sheet 180°, then bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until the crisps become evenly golden, crisp, and flaky.
- While the crisps are baking, place the honey in the microwave for 20 seconds or in a small saucepan over low heat for 1 minute. You want the honey to be warm and runny and spreadable.
- Immediately after removing the phyllo crisps from the oven, brush them with the warm honey and sprinkle with a pinch granulated sugar (or, if desired, any leftover spiced sugar). Let cool at room temperature. The crisps are best served fresh that day but can be covered with parchment paper and kept overnight at room temperature.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
As the designated phyllo wrangler when I was growing up, I appreciate the simplicity and scale of this phyllo crisps recipe. What a tempting little addition to summer fruit or even afternoon coffee to make things a little special. This recipe is a great way to use up an extra half package of phyllo since it’s likely you’ll have everything else on hand. I ground fresh cardamon seeds, then added a couple tablespoons sugar, then zested a whole Meyer lemon in place of the orange. I would work with a pair of identical size pans, so that when you bake them with one pan on top to keep it all flat, they fit together nicely. Since my phyllo sheets were 14-by-18-inch sheets, I used a pair of 10-by-15-inch pans, trimming and using the scrap pieces for the next layer since the melted butter handles any piecing or joining nicely. I recommend using a silicone brush for the butter so you don’t end up with stray bristles on the phyllo. If you snuck in a few ground walnuts, that would work beautifully as well. The phyllo crisps go very nicely with some Greek yogurt and fresh fruit or a seasonal compote, as the contrast of the sweet pastry against the tart yogurt is perfect.
Lots of kids and adults raved about these sweet and crunchy phyllo crisps. Give yourself about 10 minutes to get your ingredients all put together. Remember to put the frozen phyllo dough in the refrigerator at least a day before. And then give yourself another 10 minutes or so to make the recipe. The phyllo dough I bought was super easy to work with. The sheets didn’t tear and were so fresh and pliable. Plus, they fit on the parchment paper with just a little bit of hanging off the end and sides. The brand was Sinbad Filo sheets. Use it if you can find it. I sprinkled the sugar mixture with large pinches with my fingers and tried to cover the phyllo evenly with the delicious mixture. 10 minutes in the fridge was just the right amount of time to harden the butter. The paper towels lifted off easily, taking only a few crumbs of the sugar mixture with it. Lastly, the recipe says to brush with warmed and thinned honey and sprinkle with sugar. The added sugar didn’t seem to elevate the taste, so I might skip that step next time and just brush with the honey. My tasters—kids and adults—raved with excitement over the treats, all rating them a “testers choice.” The kids were so cute with their enthusiasm. I think these would be wonderful served with warmed brie and toasted and chopped pecans. Or alongside a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Or all alone with some coffee.
These phyllo crisps can be very addictive. Actually, these are very addictive. And very lovely. The phyllo crisps are intense in their richness with honey and sugar and butter. This is not a bad thing, but some discretion with the honey, sugar, and butter would be well-advised. Some discretion with the size of the square would also be well-advised. I cut my sheets of phyllo into 15 crisps, and I could have cut my squares in half diagonally to create 30 triangles and had twice the satisfying servings in a pleasant triangular shape. Any honey would work just fine if you intend to heat it, since you could make even thick honey runny this way. Note again here that discretion will yield a finer product: a light brushing of the heated honey and a light sprinkling of sugar is plenty sufficient. There will be honey phyllo crisps. This is fine. Again, discretion during construction is well-advised.
Never, however, would I compare these to baklava. I do wonder, however, if nuts could be added in the layers to lend substance, texture, flavor, and cut some of the sweetness, whether pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or a combination. Note that, while this is not a lengthy process, it is important to allow for the necessary phyllo thawing time, so preplanning is important.
Next, a few notes on serving. I like the author’s idea to use them to give texture to your parfaits. I also like the idea to place a lovely stack on a cheese platter. For me, these would work best with cheeses that have strong or strong-ish personalities: very goat-y could work, very sharp could also work, while simple, rich, and creamy would proceed in the wrong direction with too much of an already good thing. Similarly, fruits with personality and not too much sweetness would combine well, perhaps pomegranates or even a citrus to bridge the orange zest flavor.
I nibbled these alongside a cup of nice, strong black tea, but I think they’d be great with a lovely unsweetened mint tea or strong black coffee as well. Pistachios, walnuts, or almonds would be great on the side. A local honey added an extra-special touch to these phyllo crisps. That being said, another honey that might be perfect here would be an orange blossom honey, which would accentuate the orange zest mixed into the spiced sugar. Any potluck-goer would be happy to have this addition to the spread, or they’d be a really nice hostess gift.
After seeing Aladdin on Broadway yesterday, I just had to make these phyllo crisps. This recipe delivered exactly what was promised. The preparation was super easy, and the squares were a lovely golden brown and very crisp. I served them as an extra at my Labor Day party, and all of my tasters loved them. I’m happy to say that they held up well overnight, covered lightly with a piece of parchment paper. The next day I drizzled them with warmed honey and then sprinkled them with chopped pistachios. The amount of spiced sugar mixture was generous, but I was able to use all of it. You can easily assemble, chill, cut, and bake everything on a single baking sheet lined with parchment. I heated the honey over low heat and 1 minute was enough to get the honey to thin out and become easily spreadable on the squares.
I adore these sweet phyllo crisps recipe with a hint of cinnamon and cardamom. They remind me of chai masala, but any spice blend could easily be substituted in this recipe. The phyllo crisps were not only very tasty, but also visually appealing with their golden brown color. It’s definitely a keeper. I baked the phyllo crisps according to the recipe directions and had the most wonderful, aromatic, crispy squares. I found that I needed a tad more sugar filling and a tad less butter, but those amounts are easily adjustable. I will make this recipe again.
Originally published September 23, 2014