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Making Phyllo by Hand

Fine Cooking Issue 28
Photos: Ben Fink
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Lily and Anthony Fable have been making Greek pastries at their store, Poseidon, on 9th Avenue in New York City since 1952. Today their bakery is one of the last to make paper-thin phyllo dough by hand. The Fables use their wonderfully supple dough for their own baklava, spanakopita, and strudel. They also sell it raw to their customers, including many of New York’s best restaurants.

Anthony used to make the dough himself, but a booming business and bad knees prompted him to teach the craft to staff members. As the men work, salsa music from the portable radio somehow only emphasizes the silent, mesmerizing nature of their work—tossing, pulling, and stretching a flour-and-water dough until it’s the size of a bedsheet and as thin as tissue paper.

That’s not a bedsheet he’s tossing—it’s dough. The table, however, is lined with one of the muslin sheets hanging in the background. The fabric is sandwiched between each layer of dough to prevent sticking.
A huge bubble flattens as it’s stretched. The men pull on the edges of the dough with the perfect balance of force and finesse. You can see the ragged edges of an already stretched sheet hanging below the table’s edge.

Transparency is the goal. Once the dough dries, each large sheet is cut into about a dozen rectangles that get stacked like a sheaf of paper.
Crisp, flaky layers of baked phyllo surround a savory cheese filling. Lily uses the dough with small tears for the shop’s own pastries. The perfect pieces of dough are sold raw to patrons and chefs, who call Poseidon’s phyllo simply the best.


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