These fabulous fillo pastries are a staple in our Moroccan Pastry repertoire. There is no Moroccan Dessert display without fillo pastries, first cousins of Baklava. Although I am showcasing the glorious almond in the filling of these Fillo Pastries, you certainly could use the walnut or pistachio filling listed in my Baklava recipe link. I have streamlined this great Moroccan favorite confection, doing away not only with the pesky frying step, but with the no-less pesky syrup step (my secret: Pouring the honey straight from the jar on the piping hot fillo pastries), making it in one fell swoop less sweet and easier to prepare, and keeping it every bit as crunchy and delicious.
Do you find working with Fillo Dough daunting? You just gotta start somewhere, for fillo pastries as well as for fillo savories and hors d’oeuvres; here are my Tips on Fillo: Follow them, and soon you will look like a pro, and actually have fun working with fillo! Oh yeah, and remember this, if it can make you feel any better: In Morocco we make our own Fillo sheets for pastry, called Ouarka, by hand: something is telling me it’s just not happening on this continent, so I’m not even going there. So, working with store-bought Fillo sheets? Piece of cake!
Make your own almond paste: For these Fillo pastries and all other pastries, Moroccan, Sephardi and beyond, based on almond paste, here’s what you need to know: Nothing could be easier to make than almond paste, and no store-bought version of almond paste could hold a candle to homemade. It’s good to know that it freezes beautifully, so don’t hesitate to make a big batch, use only what you need for your fillo pastries, and freeze the rest for future use. Orange flower water is delightful, inexpensive and widely available: don’t skip it!
- 3 cups blanched almonds (no need to blanch them, store-bought OK)
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons orange flower water, a little more if needed to make a smooth dough
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
- I pound fillo leaves, thawed
- 2 cups honey
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (300 degree oven for 15 mn)
Make the almond paste: Grind the first set of ingredients in a food processor until very smooth and malleable. The almond paste is your filling.
Preheat the oven to 375*f.
Shape the fillo pastries: Cut the pile of fillo leaves crosswise into thirds. Take out two leaves, with the narrow side facing you. Brush the top leaf lightly with oil.
Place one heaping tablespoon of filling down the center. Roll the fillo over the stuffing, part-way up, jelly-roll style. Fold the sides toward the center, and roll tightly all the way up. You will get perfect little rolls, or "cigars". Place the fillo pastries seam-side down on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling, always working with two leaves at a time.
You can also shape the fillo pastries into triangles: cut strips, take two strips at a time (just as for cigars), place your filling in one corner of the oiled strip, and roll the strip, at an angle with each turn, all the way up. You will get perfect little triangles.
Bake the fillo pastries for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown and very crisp. Immediately pour the honey slowly and evenly over the hot fillo pastries. The pastries will absorb the honey as you pour it. Sprinkle the pastries with the sesame seeds. Let the fillo pastries cool, and store in tins at room temperature.