Baklava, A Daring Bakers Challenge

Just saying it makes you crave that nutty sweet happiness that is a square of baklava.   I joined the Daring Kitchen (Bakers) just under a month ago so this is my first challenge, and with the week I am having a challenge it is!  I started a new job, which has a new store opening at the Mall of America, meaning we are spending the first 3 days just unboxing everything and merchandising the store.  Also, my very best non-friend’s boyfriend is having a birthday party and I offered to make the cake, his favorite, german chocolate.  I also found out a week ago that he loves baklava, so guess who’s birthday party this is going to!

Of course being me, I procrastinated and waited till the last moment, but I did it!.  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.   This was exciting to me, I was thrilled and scared at the same time.  I researched for the last month how to do the filling since the recipe for the dough was provided.

I decided to go with two variations, and I didn’t want to do too much fuss, so I just made small batches with two layers of nuts and three of phyllo.  The final result was thinner only around an 1″ tall, which might or might not be smaller then you would get in most locations/restaurants, but tasted wonderful.  The first version was a walnut and orange version of baklava, I also did a pistachio and almond version with rose water syrup.  This had to be my favorite, if I had to chose.  It is really good, full of flavor, and almost dangersous to keep around.  I had to say for my first Daring Bakers Challenge this was exciting and fun.  I cannot wait for July.  I hope if you do try these, even if you used purchased phyllo dough these turned out fantastic.

Tips & Conclusions:

  • If I do this again I would double the phyllo dough recipe but not the mix recipe.  Making more layers between the two layers of nuts, I suggest you do this.
  • Hot Syrup on Cold Baklava = best result
  • I cannot spell syrup with out the aid of spell check.  If not for spell check this post would be a disaster and homage to my dyslexia.
  • Use a wooden dowel vs a rolling pin, unless your roller has no handles.  The pressure distribution with a dowel helps prevent tears and holes.
  • Lots and lots of flour while rolling, do not be afraid to dust.
  • Diamond shapes look better then square.
  • Rose water, pistachio, and cardamon is the combination of Gods.
  • A light flavored summer blossom honey is the best, a clove honey is just too powerful.

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Phyllo Dough Challenge
Makes 9 sheets (9″ x 13″)

  • 1 1/3 c Flour
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 c Water
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Cider Vinegar

The dough was going to be tricky for me, I knew that it needed to be very well kneaded to truly activate that gluten, so you could roll/stretch it very thin.  The constancy  was not going to come together on it’s own with my mixer.  It’s a little under powered for this sort of task, so I mixed all of the ingredients by hand with a pastry cutter, then put in to the mixer for 10 minutes.

While the dough was working I cursed my tiny kitchen and at the fact chopping all these nuts by hand was going to be a task, I was not really prepared for.  I ended up using my blender as food processer.  This was an awesome idea but only do 1 cup of nuts at a time.  I learned that lesson for you.

Now the dough had been working with the mixer for around 10 minutes and it was very sticky.  I knew the constancy needed to be very silky and have a lot of stretch.  I took the bowl in my arm and lightly flowered one hand and used my hand as a mixer, keeping my hand lightly flowered as needed to work the dough into a ball in the bowl that cleaned the sides.

Once the dough no longer was sticking to the mixing bowl I once again lightly floured my hands, and worked the dough in my hands. I worked the dough with my hands by tossing it back between my hands like a ball stopping to lightly flour my hands as needed.  How do you know when you have the right constancy?  The dough should not stick to your hands anymore and hold its shape gently.  Once it reached this constancy you won’t need to re-flour your hands as the dough should not stick to you, if it does lightly flour one hand.   At this point now, I kept tossing it and massaging it in my hands for 10 minutes.  Then I placed it in a bowl with bakers spray and then sprayed the top and covered it with plastic wrap and let it set for 90 minutes.

Now time to roll it out, being as I can be slightly pedantic about things I weighed each ball out on my scale to 47 grams give or take 2g.  This ended up being the perfect size to make this one batch of dough into 9 sheets of phyllo.  My tip here, flour everything, the table, the top the rolling pin, and flour some more while rolling.  Roll and stretch it out as much as you can, I rolled my sheets out into a 13″x9″ cake pan size.  Just slightly larger then what the size of the pan is, and I had very little waste.

I placed a piece of plastic wrap over a magazine and used that as my scale to see if I got it thin enough.  If I could read the text clearly then it was thin enough.  I placed it down on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and repeated this process until I had all 9 sheets.  The hard part was done, now the fun parts, the filling and baking.

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Walnut Baklava 

  • 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 3 c Walnuts, finely ground
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Clove, ground
  • 9 sheets of Phyllo (one batch of above recipe)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix the nuts and spices together in a bowl and set aside.  Optional:  Remove 1/8 c of the nut mixture for sprinkling over the top of each piece or the entire pan after the syrup has been poured on.   

In 9″ x 13″ cake pan.  Layer a sheet of dough and with a pastry brush, brush melted butter over it.  Repeat this process until you have 3 sheets lain down as a layer, place 1/2 of the nut mixture sprinkled evenly over the sheet of dough.   Repeat the process this until you have 2 layers of nuts and 3 layers of dough (3 sheets per layer).  With a very sharp knife trim off any access sheets of dough around the edges, and press the edges inside the pan with the back of the knife to have a nice clean edge.

With the sharp clean knife cut down half way through the layers to cut into squares, diamonds, or triangles, which ever you prefer.  Wipe the knife off after every cut to keep clean edges.  Re-brush the top layer with butter, and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature for 1-2 hours.  Mixture must be cool before adding the hot syrup.

Syrup

  • 2/3 c Water
  • 1 c Honey
  • 2/3 c Sugar
  • 1/8 c Orange Blossom Water
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean & Seeds Scrapped into syrup

Place all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 -10 minutes until very warm but not boiling hot, think… warm bath water temperature.  Pour the mixture evenly over the cool baklava.  If you reserved some of your nut mixture sprinkle a pinch of the mixture over the top middle of each piece until all used.  Cover and let it set overnight to absorb the syrup.

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Pistachio and Almond Baklava 

  • 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 c Pistachios, finely ground
  • 1 1/2 c Almonds, finely ground
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cardamon
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 9 sheets of Phyllo (one batch of above recipe)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix the nuts and spices together in a bowl and set aside.  Optional: Remove 1/8 c of the nut mixture for sprinkling over the top of each piece or the entire pan after the syrup has been poured on.  

In 9″ x 13″ cake pan.  Layer a sheet of dough and with a pastry brush, brush melted butter over it.  Repeat this process until you have 3 sheets lain down as a layer, place 1/2 of the nut mixture sprinkled evenly over the sheet of dough.   Repeat the process this until you have 2 layers of nuts and 3 layers of dough (3 sheets per layer).  With a very sharp knife trim off any access sheets of dough around the edges, and press the edges inside the pan with the back of the knife to have a nice clean edge.

With the sharp clean knife cut down half way through the layers to cut into squares, diamonds, or triangles, which ever you prefer.  Wipe the knife off after every cut to keep clean edges.  Re-brush the top layer with butter, and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature for 1-2 hours.  Mixture must be cool before adding the hot syrup.

Syrup

  • 2/3 c Water
  • 1/2 c Honey
  • 2/3 c Sugar
  • 1/8 c Rose Water
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean & Seeds Scrapped into syrup

Place all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 -10 minutes until very warm but not boiling hot, think… warm bath water temperature.  Pour the mixture evenly over the cool baklava.  If you reserved some of your nut mixture sprinkle a pinch of the mixture over the top middle of each piece until all used.  Cover and let it set overnight to absorb the syrup.

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Recipe Sources; Phyllo Dough: Provided by the daing bakers challenge //Filling and Syrup: Catalyst Originals

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7 thoughts on “Baklava, A Daring Bakers Challenge

  1. Welcome and hello to the Daring Bakers and congratulations on your first very successful challenge. I have to say that last photograph is stunning and from your posting it sounds like you had a FUN time making the baklava, marvellous result.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Whoa, I’ve never seen someone attempting baklava before and actually making their own phyllo pastry – that’s pretty darn impressive, and the final product looks delicious! There’s a Tunisian bakery not far from where I live where I can get many things like this, but you make it seem pretty simple – perhaps something to try!

    • Thank you! I admit it was not as hard as I feared but just more time consuming, because of the mixing/kneading of the dough and the long resting periods for it, but once that was completed it came together quickly.

  3. Good job right here. I actually enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you certainly bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what you’ve said and still make it interesting. Nicely, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see much more of this from you.

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