more trial and error and success


Of my two experiments the other night, this is the one that worked. It’s chocolate chips, hempseed, and unsweetened shredded coconut, sprinkled with a little bit o’ turbinado. It tasted as good as it looks. The one that didn’t work so swell was the Daiya cheddar; it tasted great but the one tablespoon of shreds melted way, way flat.

I’ve always loved phyllo dough. Some hate it because it can be difficult to handle, drying out very quickly, but if you have a helper, some plastic wrap to cover it during lulls, and a well-planned assembly-line setup it’s an easy-flakey-fun base for sweet and savory treats. If you’ve never worked with it before—or have, with disastrous results—here are some points to remember:

•Make sure it’s thawed. Right on the box (which you’ll find in the freezer section), it says you can leave it in the fridge for a day or on the counter for a few hours. It’s much easier to work with at room temp, so again, a little forethought goes a long way.

•Take what you need and only what you need—save the rest for later. Figure out what size and shape you’re going to need to wrap around whatever you’re wrapping around a few times. Cut out that shape and roll the rest up, stick it back in the plastic (no air allowed!) and refreeze it. I’ve done this and never had problems with later uses. Unless you’re cooking for a crowd it’s pretty tough to use the whole package, and this stuff ain’t cheap.

•Melt your Earth Balance and keep it melted. Back in the dairy days, I used butter and other margarine and had a hell of a time keeping it liquid, but Earth Balance behaves beautifully. I just keep it in the pot (no microwaves in this home). Use a pastry/BBQ brush to get a thin, even layer on your dough. Once I used a mist-o-matic bottle filled with olive oil on a savory bundle and it worked, but I like the light flavor of EB.

•Prepare your fillings for the quick bake. Because of the dryness, I like to cook these quickly. If 10 minutes in the oven isn’t going to thoroughly cook whatcha got inside, then precook. Apples, for instance, would likely still be hard so they need to be cooked down like a prepared pie filling. Soy curls, tempeh, or tofu should be sautéed up, as should raw garlic if it’s in big chunks. Try to keep the moisture of your fillings down to a minimum—nobody wants a soggy bottom.

•Line up your ingredients leading to the cookie sheet/baking pan and preheat your oven. Start with the phyllo, then EB, filling, and baking pan. If you have a helper to brush the phyllo with EB and hand it off to you for filling and rolling, awesome. You don’t even have to worry too much about the phyllo drying out. If not, keep a layer of plastic wrap on top of your waiting stack o’ sheets. Also, if you pull up a sheet and it’s stuck to another one, maybe just chuck ’em; you don’t want to waste time separating them if all you’re going to end up with is holey, dry sheets. Boo.

I think that’s about it. Looks like a long list of stuff to think about, I know, but it’s all simple stuff. And it’s worth it if you like fun flakey foodthings.

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