Herbed Chèvre with Mushrooms in Phyllo Pouches make a savory treat for a couple of reasons; they are relatively easy to make as far as gourmet appetizers go, and they taste amazing! I love that there are no hard-to-find ingredients, either.
Once you get the hang of working with phyllo dough (I can’t think of a better recipe to begin with than this one), the rest is simply just mixing the goat cheese with fresh herbs and finely diced mushrooms and filling the phyllo with this savory mixture.
Using a muffin tin will help with the hands-on shaping of the dough if you are new to phyllo. Just line each cup with the prepared phyllo, drop a spoonful of the mushroom and herbed chèvre mix inside, lightly pinch the dough into a pouch, and bake.
Who says gourmet appetizers have to be hard, anyway?
Wait…. what is phyllo dough, anyway?
Phyllo, also spelled filo or fillo, is a very thin pastry dough that is made without yeast (unleavened). The origin of phyllo is unclear, although speculations debate between Greece, Syria, Turkey, and it has even been documented as being used as far back as the time of the Ottoman Empire. The origin of the term came from the meaning ‘pleated or folded bread’.
Traditional phyllo dough is made with only three ingredients:
That’s it. Nothing more.
The dough gets stretched and rolled until it is razor thin, so making it at home is darn near impossible. Most grocery stores now sell phyllo. It can usually be found in the freezer section near the pastries.
Most people are familiar with the Greek dessert baklava, which uses phyllo dough to create all those flaky layers.
How to work with phyllo pastry sheets:
Phyllo dough appetizers don’t have to be intimidating to make. Yeah, those paper-thin phyllo pastry sheets can be tricky if you have never worked with them before, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to craft all kinds of phyllo gourmet appetizer recipes and desserts in no time.
The thing to remember most when working with phyllo pastry sheets is that you will need to keep the phyllo from drying out as you work with it. Some key tips:
- Once the phyllo is unwrapped and laid flat, cover it immediately with plastic wrap.
- Lay a damp (not sopping wet) towel over the plastic wrap.
- Only uncover the phyllo when you need to grab a sheet.
- Don’t let the phyllo dry out or it will shatter.
- Don’t get the phyllo wet or the sheets will stick together, and lastly…
- Don’t get discouraged!
I use a tea towel that I have dampened with water and wrung out. It is nice and light so when I lay it over the phyllo pastry sheets, it won’t crush them.
The story behind these gourmet appetizers:
I first developed the idea for this gourmet appetizer recipe back in 2014. Mark and I were dating, and I wanted to treat him to some fancy appetizers for his birthday that year (along with an entree of homemade beef wellingtons).
I had toyed around with the idea of making up my own flavored goat cheese recipe to fill the phyllo pouches, and I am particularly fond of herbed chèvre. Since I was going to be serving these mushroom phyllo appetizers as a starter for a red meat entree, I chose rosemary because it pairs well with most meats as well as with mushrooms.
I can’t think of a better way to tie together two courses than with an herb that compliments the starring ingredients in both. Rosemary will do just that if you serve these phyllo appetizers with beef wellingtons, or whether you are serving poultry, lamb, or a fatty fish like salmon as the entree.
Marjoram and rosemary pair well in these easy gourmet appetizers because they both give warm woodsy flavors with bright citrus notes. Since both are also slightly bitter, they not only bring out the more robust flavors of the chèvre, but are also tempered nicely by the Chinese five spice used in the butter brushed between the phyllo sheets.
Back to date night at my place…
Long story short, the first couple of times I made these fancy appetizers, I took my fancy time because I was still learning the art of working with phyllo dough. I didn’t own a food processor back in 2014 (well, actually I did, but it decided not to work), so Mark was kind enough to chop the mushrooms for me by hand while I prepared the phyllo.
After a couple of hours and some endearing conversation, the phyllo appetizers were done!
I have come a long way since then. It doesn’t have to take you this long to make these herbed chèvre with mushrooms in phyllo pouches though, especially if you have the right tools.
To hasten up the mushroom chopping process, using the large holes on the grater attachment of a food processor shreds the mushrooms in a couple of minutes. As far as working with the phyllo dough… that just comes with practice. In time, you can get the process of preparing the phyllo down to just 10 minutes, but don’t rush this step if you are new to phyllo dough. Allow yourself some extra time. The delightfully light and crispy result of properly prepared phyllo is well worth the effort.
The case for mushroom phyllo appetizers…
…and why you need to make them – right away!
Mushroom and goat cheese appetizers are very filling, so if you serve them as a starter, two per person should be plenty. Mark and I sometimes have these as our entree – six of these phyllo dough appetizers makes a filling meal.
Since the muffin pan does a great job helping these easy gourmet appetizers keep their shape as they bake, herbed chèvre with mushrooms in phyllo pouches are a great way to break into the art of working with phyllo dough. You don’t need to stress over if you pinched the pouches right; if they fall open, the muffin tin with catch the dough and keep it upright. Just don’t seal off the pouches completely because you want a little opening for the steam to escape as they bake.
Forgot to leave the hole at the top?
If the phyllo pouches break open, the muffin tin will come to the rescue again! Unfortunately, you won’t be able to control where the phyllo breaks open (*gasp! It could be at the very bottom of the pouch!) but at least you’ll still have everything in one compact little place. As a general rule of thumb though, leave a little hole at the top and all will be well here.
When it comes to serving fancy appetizers, a goat cheese appetizer as well as phyllo appetizers come to mind because they are unique and – oh, so presentable! Herbed chèvre with mushrooms in phyllo pouches is a combination of both of these ideas.
If you are like me and you just love dipping hors d’oeuvres into something, reserve a little of the spiced butter that you used between the phyllo sheets. Serve it melted and drawn in tiny dishes with the mushroom phyllo appetizers for an extra dose of buttery goodness.
I like to serve these fancy appetizers with a good red wine that has notes of cinnamon and clove over juicy berry flavors. If you would rather not have the alcohol, then go with a mulled non-alcoholic wine or mixed berry juice instead.
Herbed Chèvre with Mushrooms in Phyllo Pouches
- Muffin Tin
- Large Skillet
- Pastry Brush
- Small Saucepan
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter divided
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram leaves
- 4 cups finely chopped assorted mushrooms
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp Chinese five spice
- 4 oz goat cheese (chèvre)
- 7 oz phyllo dough
- chopped fresh chives for garnish
- Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until lightly browned, one minute. Add the herbs and continue to heat, stirring constantly, for another minute. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms give up their juices and the pan dries out, about 10 more minutes.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, heat the remaining stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in a small saucepan over medium heat. When melted, whisk in the Chinese five spice. Reduce heat to low to keep warm.
- When the mushrooms are finished cooking, remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the goat cheese and using a wooden spatula, break it up and mix it into the warm mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined and creamy. Set aside.
- Prepare the phyllo dough by removing it from the package (make sure it is completely thawed) and laying it flat. Cover the dough sheets first with a sheet of plastic wrap, followed by a towel that has been dampened with water and wrung well. (Phyllo dough dries out fast and once dry, it cannot be worked with. Keeping the dough covered with the damp cloth will prevent it from drying out.)
- Very carefully peel away one sheet of phyllo dough and place it on a flat surface. Dip a pastry brush into the melted butter with the Chinese five spice, tap against the side of the pan to remove excess butter. With light, quick stokes, brush the melted butter onto the phyllo dough sheet. (The best way to do this without ripping or wrinkling the dough is to hold one side of the sheet down with your fingers while brushing it in a direction away from your fingers. If this is your first time working with phyllo dough, this may take some getting used to. Just take your time, you’ll get the hang of it!) You don’t need a lot of butter for this step, just enough to moisten the sheet. When the first sheet is completely brushed with butter, carefully remove a new sheet of phyllo dough and place it directly over the one just brushed. Repeat this process until you have four sheets stacked, but do not brush butter onto the fourth (top) sheet.
- Cut the stacked dough into four squares that measure about 3 by 4 inches. Repeat step four until you have 12 of the smaller squares. Place the squares into the cups of an un-greased muffin tin and gently press to form the phyllo squares into the cups.
- Fill each square with the mushroom mixture so that they are about half full. There should be about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons in each cup. Once all of the cups are full, lightly pinch the dough together to form a pouch. Leave a small opening on the top for steam to escape. You don’t want to press the dough together too tightly, just enough to nearly cover the mushroom mixture but so that the dough is still somewhat loose.
- Dip the pastry brush into the melted butter. Tap off the excess, then lightly dab the tops of the pouches. It is ok if the dough layers separate a bit, in fact, you want this. This will create a lighter, flakier end result. You only want enough butter on the pouches so that they brown while baking, you don’t need very much – too much and the dough will become soggy.
- Drain the remaining melted butter through a stainer into a ramekin, discard the residue. Keep the butter warm by placing it on top of the oven as the mushroom pouches bake.
- Bake the pouches for 15 minutes at 325°F or until the tops are golden brown. When done, remove the pan from the oven and let the pouches cool for a few minutes so that you can safely handle them. Carefully lift them from the muffin tin with a teaspoon and transfer them onto a serving platter. Be careful that you don’t break them! Sprinkle with sliced fresh chives and serve with the ramekin of the strained spiced butter.