This is one sweet shortcut. 
Child eating dessert
Credit: Getty / Coolpicture

Summer is a time to get together. Kids are home from school; the sun shines late into the day; vacations are planned; and the outdoors call to us for backyard barbecues and picnics. And these lovely lazy days deserve desserts—especially desserts that celebrate summer fruit or are chilled and refreshing. But that also means baking. And while there is nothing wrong with a summer baking project, sometimes you want maximum flavor for minimum fuss.

In other words, hot days are not the time to try humidity-sensitive meringues or delicate pastry. It seems rude that the months of perfect fruits for pies are the same hot months that make pie crust extra difficult. Cobblers and crumbles crisps jump in here well, but even those can take extra time. And if you have forgotten to load ingredients into your pantry, now you have an errand to run on top of your baking.

But here is my secret weapon for summer desserts of all kinds: Frozen shredded phyllo dough!

Why frozen shredded phyllo dough is my summer dessert life saver

In general, phyllo is known for being paper thin, and when layered with butter or oil, its crispy goodness elevates sweet and savory bakes alike. But that paper thin nature makes it harder to work with. If it dries out it will crack; further, all the layering and brushing takes a lot of time. Shredded phyllo dough is exactly the same dough, but cut into fine shreds, making it a dream to work with. Here's the secret: Toss the shreds with melted butter or neutral oil, add sugar or spices, and then press into a pie plate to bake into a crisp shell to fill with cream or fruit!

Wait, there's more: You can also pile it on top of a fruit casserole for a variation on a traditional crisp or crumble. You can bake shredded phyllo on a sheet pan and break it up into crunchy garnishes for ice cream or yogurt or pudding. You can make little nests to fill up with goodies or press between two sheet pans for a substitute for puff pastry layered desserts like mille-feuille. Finally, try using it in traditional desserts like Turkish kunefe or Greek kataifi.

My favorite summer use? Fill a casserole dish with the freshest berries tossed in sugar and lemon zest and a little cornstarch, pile buttered shredded phyllo on top, sprinkle with coarse raw sugar, a light dusting of cardamom, and maybe some sliced almonds if I have them around. Bake at 400° until the phyllo is browned and crispy and the fruit is bubbly and cooked. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or yogurt or whipped cream.

You'll never want to roll out pastry again… maybe even after summer is over!

Tips on buying and using shredded phyllo dough

You can find shredded phyllo in the frozen section of your local Middle Eastern market—larger supermarkets might carry it as well. Most packages of shredded phyllo will tell you the ideal time and temp for baking, as well as some basic applications. But to get you started, a few tips:

  • Always be generous with butter or oil, since raw shredded phyllo will crisp and brown, but will taste chalky and bland when not well-lubricated. Sometimes a spray neutral oil like avocado or coconut, or spray ghee will be your best bet for good coverage without too much handling of the delicate dough.
  • If you want to make a shell, nest, or sheet for something, be sure to add a little bit of sugar to your mix, which will melt and caramelize and help it to stick together. 
  • If you want sheets to layer, or special shapes, pre-cut before baking so that you can easily snap apart once crispy. 
  • 400° is a good general temperature for baking, which will allow it to brown and crisp quickly without drying out. 
  • Baked shredded phyllo will last up to a week in an airtight container at room temp, or up to three months in the freezer.