June DB Challenge – Baklava

Usually when I bake things that turn out to be pretty and yummy, it makes me happy.  Even when I bake something that turns out to be not very pretty, but still yummy…it makes me happy.

But let’s face it.  Usually I’m baking things like muffins.  Cookies.  Brownies.  Cupcakes.  While yummy, and important to a healthy diet, they aren’t generally super duper high on the challenging scale.


Thennn there are some things I bake, like croissants…yeast-y breads…rugelach, that make me feel like I have produced a human being.

They take so much time!  And labor!  And TLC!  And usually, more than a few bucks.

Pretty much exactly like a baby.

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.


Phyllo dough is some scary stuff yo.

All those delicate layers!  Sometimes to get flaky layers you fold dough a lot of times, like with crossaints or cinnamon rolls.  Not so with phyllo dough.  You roll out every single sheet of dough, and then you stack them on top of each other, obviously with butter in between each layer.


This is not as hard as it sounds, but it is as time consuming as it sounds.  Unless you’re a phyllo expert or a baklava fiend…in which case…do you want to come over and teach me some things?

BUT.  The other thing about these baby-like challenging baking projects is that they are always, 100% of the time, worth it.

Such fantastic flavors.  Such flaky, buttery layers.  Such syrup-y chewiness.  So much yummy in my tummy!


Once again, thanks to the Daring Bakers for inspiring me to make something I would never have attempted.  Now, let me inspire you.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Rolling out the layers took me about an hour and a half…but if you have some time to kill, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

Baklava

Makes one 9×9 inch or 8×8 inch pan…about 24-36 pieces of baklava, depending on how you slice them

Ingredients:
For phyllo dough
2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup less 2 TBS water, plus more if needed
4 TBS vegetable oil
1 tsp cider vinegar

For filling
2 tsp cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries (not sure how much it would be ground…maybe 1/2 tsp?)
3/4 cup raw almonds
3/4 cup raw walnuts
3/4 cup peanuts (original recipe calls for 3/4 cup pistachios, which is more traditional, but they were expensive!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 TBS unsalted butter, melted

For syrup
1 1/4 cups honey
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
a few whole cloves
1 1-inch piece fresh citrus peel (orange or lemon)

Directions:
1. For phyllo dough – In a small bowl, combine the water, oil, and vinegar and set aside.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer (defs use it if you have it), combine the flour and salt.  Gradually add the water mixture, mixing on low to combine (or stirring with a wooden spoon).  Add a little more water if necessary…you want the dough to stick together and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
2. If using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the dough hook for 10 minutes, until the dough is completely smooth, shiny, and satiny (it will still be slightly sticky).  If kneading by hand (like I did…get ready for a workout), knead dough for 20 minutes.


When you’ve reached the right consistency, roll dough into a ball and lightly oil the ball.  (To do this, I oiled the bowl I used and just rolled the dough in it.)  Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and set it aside to rest for 60 to 90 minutes.  The closer to 90 minutes, the better.  Well-rested dough is easier to roll!
3. For filling – While your dough is resting, make your filling and syrup.  For the filling, combine all the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a food processor.  Process until the nuts are finely chopped.  Set aside.
4. For syrup – In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling.  Boil the syrup for 10 minutes.  It will bubble up like crazy, but that’s ok.  Turn off the heat and let syrup cool while you roll out the phyllo dough.  Once cool, strain the syrup to remove the cloves, citrus peel, and cinnamon stick.
5. Roll out the dough – Line a baking sheet or large cutting board with parchment paper.  Heavily flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Break off a golf ball sized piece of dough (you want to get about 18 sheets out of this dough all together) and begin rolling it out.  You’ll need to keep adding flour so the dough doesn’t stick, but the dough won’t suffer from it.  Continue rolling out the dough until you think it’s as thin as you can get it with the rolling it.  Carefully pick up the dough and begin stretching it with your hands and fists (remove your rings!), like you would do with pizza dough.  You want the dough to be thin enough to read print through.  You’ll never get it as thin and perfect as grocery-store frozen phyllo, so don’t stress out about it.  Don’t worry if you get some small holes in the dough…no one will ever know!


6. Place your rolled dough sheet on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle a little flour on top.  Continue rolling out the phyllo dough one sheet at a time, stacking them all on top of each other.  You don’t have to keep it covered like store-bought phyllo because it’s much more moist.  
7. Assemble the baklava – Preheat the oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle position.  Brush the bottom of your 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan with a little of the melted butter.  Place one sheet of phyllo dough in the pan, using a thin sharp knife to trim it to fit the pan.  (Do NOT do as I did and trim all the sheets at once when they’re in a stack.  This makes the edges stick together and makes it super hard to peel them apart.)  Brush the sheet with a little melted butter and lay another sheet of dough on top.  Trim this sheet to fit the pan.  Continue layering dough and melted butter until you have 5 sheets stacked up.
8. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the filling mixture over the layered phyllo dough in the pan.  Lay another sheet of dough on top of the filling and brush it with a little melted butter.  Continue layering until you have 4 sheets of dough stacked up.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the filling mixture over the dough.


9. Stack 4 more sheets of dough, layering with butter in between, on top of the filling.  Sprinkle the rest of the filling (should be the last 1/3) over the dough.  Stack 5 more sheets of filling, with butter in between, on top of the filling.  To recap, that’s 5 sheets of dough…1/3 filling…4 sheets of dough…1/3 filling…4 sheets of dough…1/3 filling…5 sheets of dough.
10. Score the top of the dough however you’ll want to slice the pieces of baklava.  I scored it into rectangles, then sliced each rectangle in half to form triangles.  Brush the top layer of dough with the rest of the melted butter.
11. Bake the baklava for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and use a sharp knife to continue slicing all the way through the baklava where you scored it.  Continue baking the baklava for about 20 to 30 more minutes, until the top is dry and golden brown.
12. While the baklava is still hot, pour the cooled syrup evenly over the baklava.  It will look like you’ve drowned your baklava in syrup and there’s way too much, but don’t worry!  Let the baklava cool to room temperature, them cover with plastic wrap.  Let the baklava sit at room temperature overnight…this gives the baklava time to soak up the syrup and get extra delicious. Baklava will keep, tightly covered at room temperature, for up to 10 days.  It will keep for even longer in the fridge (and stay a little firmer), and even EVEN longer in the freezer.  This means it makes a great gift!!

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown and Erica of Erica’s Edibles

Hooray baklava!  Can’t wait until next month’s challenge. Thanks for reading, happy baking!

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3 comments

  1. I think it’s hugely impressive that you actually went and made your own phyllo dough. Its something I have never dared try!

    1. Thanks! It was kind of tiring, but totally worth it 🙂 I would never have tried either if not for daring bakers.

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