Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider, (Artisan 2001).
Makes four 4-inch disks
This is the simplest way I know to make a dramatic pastry lid for free-form fruit desserts: Butter a sheet of phyllo, crumple it, press it into a round mold, and bake. The chewy-crisp phyllo disks are best eaten the day they are made.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Unroll the phyllo dough on the counter. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, then place a damp tea towel over it to keep the phyllo from drying out as you work.
Brush four 4-inch tart tins or ramekins lightly with some of the butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on the work surface and brush it with butter. Gently gather it in your hands and crumple it into a loose ball. Press it into a tin until it is compacted to about 1/3 inch high. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar. Repeat with the remaining phyllo.
Place the tins on a baking sheet and bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the tins to release the pastry. Cool on a rack..
You can prepare the phyllo disks without baking them up to 1 day ahead. Wrap well and refrigerate.
Brown Butter for Brushing Phyllo
As a general rule, you will need 1 teaspoon melted butter and 3/4 teaspoon sugar per sheet of phyllo. Browning the butter first will give the baked dough a much deeper buttery flavor. For 2 tablespoons brown butter, place 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small heavy saucepan or skillet over moderately low heat. Cook slowly until the butter smells like roasting nuts and the solids in the bottom of the pan are golden brown. Tilt the pan, carefully skim off the white residue on the surface of the butter and discard. Spoon the clear butter into a small bowl, leaving the solids behind.
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