One free weekend at last, yipee! It must have been ages since I got up after six to enjoy my cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat on a rainy sunday morning. Simple pleasures that often get lost in the midst of everyday’s struggle to be ready for work. I picked this particular weekend to complete the Daring Baker’s June challenge as I was not about to miss out another wonderful opportunity to bake with my favourite baking group. May was such a hectic month that it was impossible for me to be part of the very tempting Marquise upon Meringue challenge co-hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. I do have the recipe bookmarked and plan to make the spiced chocolate marquise before my heavy cream goes bad.

I was therefore quite excited to try the new challenge chosen this month by Erica of Erica’s Edibles. She challenged us to be truly daring by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava, a sweet rich pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts sweetened with simple syrup. Baklava is widely knows as a Greek dessert, but its origin has really never been pinpointed as many Middle Eastern countries also name it as their own.

If you’re thinking baklava is easy, just layering phyllo, you’re right, but not so fast. We will be making our own homemade phyllo; we are, after all, the Daring Bakers. Phyllo, which means, “leaf” in Greek, is tissue paper-thin like sheets of dough. Homemade phyllo is a lot of work to roll out but is worth it, its delicious! Baklava is quite simple to make but is a little time consuming. Give yourself at least half a day for the prep, rolling and layering and it does need to sit overnight to absorb all that syrup.

It was with a satisfied sigh that I put down my rolling pin as I  flattened my last lump of dough into a thin smooth phyllo sheet which served as my top layer. For the filling, I blanched 1 cup of almonds and 1 cup of pistachio kernels along with 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom to compliment the combination of nuts I used here. I dunno how far my creation matches the real baklava -it’s not something I’ve tasted before – but I say that all the effort that went into the making of this particular dessert did yield pretty nice results taste-wise even if it’s not gonna win any points on looks alone. I’m sure my fellow Daring Bakers must already have posted their eye-catching pics on the forum for all to see and drool over 🙂

PHYLLO DOUGH

 

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour

1/8 tsp (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt

1/2 cup less 1 tbs (105 ml) water, plus more if needed

2 tbs (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1/2 tsp (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

Method:

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine flour and salt with paddle attachment. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
  • Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water.
  • Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough.

  • If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 mins.
  • Pick up the dough and throw it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best.

Rolling your Phyllo

  • Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball.
  • While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
  • Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding.
  • Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel.

  • Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it.
  • Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
  • When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent.

  • You will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine.
  • Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flour well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
  • You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.

BAKLAVA

Ingredients:

For the syrup

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey

1 1/4 cups (300ml) water

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)

a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat.
  • Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
  • Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.
  • When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot.
  • I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled.

For the Filling

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon

15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)

3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds

3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts

3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar

phyllo dough (see recipe above)

1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
  • Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped.
  • If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
  • Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
  • Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. 

  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times.
  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times.
  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times.
  • On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.

  • Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
  • With a sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces.
  • If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces.
  • Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge.
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through.

  • Continue baking for another 30 minutes until the top turns golden brown.
  • When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces.
  • It looks like a lot but overnight the syrup will soak in, creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
  • Next morning all syrup is absorbed. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and serve at room temperature.

Freezing & Storage Instructions:

  • It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container and it will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and more chewy.
  • You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
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