Sunday 3 January 2016

Filo is tricky!

I had my first attempt at filo today. It's one of those ones that you need to have a go at (a bit like macarons) if you want to be seen as "serious". I'd spent the morning getting thoroughly soaked, while riding around Berkshire/Hampshire borders, so an afternoon in a nice warm kitchen was quite appealing!

I used this recipe from Michel Roux as my base, then the plan was to use each sheet to make a "mini strudel", with a savoury filling of mozzarella, pancetta and tomato. The receipe reckons that you'll get 6 sheets out of it.

When I was mixing up the dough, it was obviously very I mixed it (very glad I have a stand mixer, would have taken forever and a day by hand) it slowly thickened up, and (as the recipe says) starts to come away from the side, but once it was (as I thought) done and I turned it out onto a work surface to split and shape, it was clearly still very gloopy. I split it into 6 (well, 6 large lumps, several lumps stuck to me, a few on the work surface etc etc), and left it to rest for a couple of hours.

I have made myself a filo rolling pin from a chunk of dowling I picked up from the local DIY store, and I've watched a few videos on how to roll it in efforts didn't quite come up to those videos, and I suspect that the consistency of the dough was the main issue. The dough tore quite easily, and I couldn't roll it as thin  as I wanted. I managed to form 4 strudel-esque lumps, and baked them at 200'C for about 30 minutes, however I think I probably didn't create enough layers (or use enough butter...I was using a silicone pastry brush, and it wasn't carrying the melted butter very well, next time I'll revert to my more traditional one). A couple of them split while baking (probably the result of tears, and not enough layers).

The end results taste OK (cheese, ham, tomato...crowd-pleasing flavours), but not quite the "pretty" food I wanted to present. I'll give it another go, with the following changes;

1) I'll use a proportion of strong flour...the recipe I used called for just plain flour, while a lot of other resourses use some or all strong flour. The extra gluten should create a stronger, more elastic dough.

2) Less filling, more layers. In real terms this will mean a longer strip of filo, so that I roll it more around the filling.

3) Sprinkle something on top to make them look a little more interesting (I'm thinking poppy seeds).

All in all not a terrible first attempt, but I can definitely improve from here. If nothing else, trying not to coat the entire kitchen in cornflour would be a start! If I really struggle, I may cheat and resort to a pasta machine (after all, Hollywood does!) (and note he uses strong flour as well...)