Phyllo cups end up on nearly every party menu I create. They’re crispy, buttery, delightful mouthfuls that look impressive but are one of the easiest dishes on the table. Better yet, most of the work can be done days in advance.
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Phyllo has a reputation for being fiddly to work with, and that scares a lot of people off. This is a great recipe to practice handling it, because you’re working with just a couple sheets at a time.
Tips for Handling Phyllo
- Start with best phyllo you can find. In many areas all you’ll find is Athens brand, which is fine, but not always the best. I prefer the quality and the size of the sheets in the Signature Kitchen brand from Safeway, which is the only other choice where I live.
- Thaw it in the fridge. If you thaw it too quickly you run the risk of the center of the roll being soggy or stuck together.
- Accept that it’s going to tear. It’s not the end of the world! Most of the time you can still use a torn sheet.
- Keep it from drying out. The traditional advice is to cover it with a damp tea towel, but I’ve always found that to be slow and fiddly. Instead, I work with a small amount at a time and work quickly.
- Yes, this can seem like a lot of butter, but it’s what keeps phyllo light and crisp rather than dry and crumbly. I find it helpful to only dip the brush in the butter as needed, rather than letting it rest in the butter. This way you can control the amount on the brush.
Making Phyllo Cups
- One box of thawed phyllo
- One stick of melted butter or 1/2 cup olive oil (Note: margarine has too much water in it and can make your phyllo soggy)
- Cutting board
- Pastry brush
- Sharp paring knife
- Mini muffin pan
Heat your oven to 350º F.
Place a sheet of phyllo on your cutting board and lightly brush all over with melted butter. A dab or two of butter on the cutting board can help hold the phyllo in place.
Carefully lay a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first, and brush with butter.
If a sheet tears, just lay the two torn pieces next to each other on top of a whole piece and keep going.
Cut the layered sheets of phyllo into squares approximately 3″ x 3″. They don’t have to be perfect.
Layer 2 squares of phyllo on top of each other so that the corners are offset. If you had a torn piece, make sure the tear is on top of another solid square. This way you have 3 pieces to support the one that has a tear in it.
Buttered side down, carefully tuck the layered squares into one of the cups in your muffin pan. It will end up a little ruffled with the points sticking up.
If needed, use your pastry brush to tuck the phyllo into the corners of the cup. The bristles are soft enough to do this without tearing the pastry.
Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Let cool in the pan slightly before removing them.
The cups can be gently stacked 2-3 high in a deep sided baking dish and covered with plastic wrap until ready to use. They can be made up to a week in advance and should stay crispy. If needed, they can be crisped up for a few minutes in the oven the day you plan to serve them.
Filling Suggestions for Phyllo Cups
Most of these fillings can be prepared 1-2 days in advance. Shortly before serving, fill the cups and wow your guests.
- Cubes of hot or cold roasted chicken topped with cilantro pesto and garnished with a sliced cherry tomato and a sprig of cilantro.
- 1-2 small cubes of brie topped with 1 tsp jam and baked until melted. My favorites are fig jam thinned with a little ruby port, apricot jam, or peach-pepper preserves.
- Cubes of hot or cold roasted chicken with a drizzle peanut sauce, topped with chopped peanuts and thin slices of bias cut green onion.
- These creamed mushrooms garnished with freshly chopped parsley.
- Your favorite creamy dip (ie. parmesan-artichoke, pub cheese, or crab) topped with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and chopped parsley, then baked until melted.