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What is the Difference Between Phyllo and Puff Pastry?

I was asked this question a few weeks ago and thought it was a great question, especially with holiday entertaining just around the corner.

Here’s where is can get confusing:

Both are great for making appetizers.

Both are Ready-Made pastry.

Both just have to be baked.

Both are used for desserts, appetizers, and main dishes.

The difference? One puffs up and one doesn’t.

Blocks of Puff and Phyllo Pastry

Puff Pastry:

Remember that it Puffs as it bakes.

Puff pastry is usually sold in a short box, with 2 blocks of pastry that need to be thawed and then rolled. More and more, though, I’m seeing it come pre-rolled, which is great!

There are 4 ingredients in puff pastry: flour, butter (or shortening), water, and salt.

Butter is cut into the flour and water is added to help the buttery flour mixture come together into a ragged dough, with salt added for flavour. Then the dough is rolled into a  rectangle, which is then folded onto itself to form a flattened jelly roll.  Now you have layers of dough, studded with butter.  As the puff pastry bakes, the the tiny pieces of butter spread out, melt, and give off steam, which puffs up the dough making it light, puffy, and buttery.

The key to working with puff pastry is to make sure you always keep it cold.  You want the butter to melt in the oven to ensure the highest puff, not before.

You can totally make it yourself; here’s a recipe from Canadian Living that is great and very easy!!

Block of unused puff pastry


Phyllo Dough (aka:  filo, fillo):

Phyllo dough is rolled out to be paper-thin. It’s then buttered or oiled and another paper-thin layer is placed on top. This process is repeated until the desired thickness is achieved. Phyllo is used for desserts, such as baklava and for appetizers, such as spinach pie.

Because you “stick” many layers together with butter or oil, as the pastry bakes, it becomes very flakey.

The key to working with this film-like dough is to keep it covered under a damp tea towel as your working with it. If it dries, it becomes brittle like a dry leaf.

Here are a couple appetizer recipes using phyllo:

Blue Cheese, Walnut, And Arugula Phyllo Crisps

Thai Crab Salad Phyllo Cups

Phyllo dough