Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers June 2011 - Baklava

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.

My baklava was a disaster! Except that I had fun making it, it tasted yummy and we loved eating it. So not that much of a disaster.

I was thrilled when this challenge was revealed because (a) I love baklava and (b) I knew home-made filo pastry would be very challenging. I was right about that. After hours of rolling and holey dough and even some tears of frustration, I learned one very important lesson – never, ever try to make your own filo! In all seriousness, I am glad I tried it and I would urge all the more talented cooks out there to give it a go, but next time I will go back to store-bought pastry.

Where do I start with my problems? Not with the dough – that was great. My beloved mixer made light work of the kneading and the dough looked perfect. But when it came to rolling, things went rapidly down hill. I didn't use a dowel and I am sure that would have helped. I tried both my rolling pins and I used a lot of flour, but it just wouldn't go thin enough. Before it got anywhere near translucent it would tear. And every time I tried to pick it up it would also tear. And after it had been rolled out once, it turned hard and refused to be rolled again. And then the leaves started sticking together. And even though I doubled the recipe and rolled for hours, I only ended up with 10 useable pieces. Sigh.

The end result probably shouldn't even be called baklava. My pastry layers were not light or crisp or flaky. More like dense and hard and chewy. But hey, how wrong can you go with all those nuts and all that butter and honey? The flavour was still lovely, we ate the whole tray and I will happily use this recipe again. With store-bought filo.

Thank you Erica for the excellent challenge, a really great choice.

Filo pastry dough:

185 gm plain flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
105 ml water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. 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
5. Change to the dough hook and knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead by hand for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 90 minutes

Rolling the Filo

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. 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.
8. 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. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower 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.

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network

For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups honey
· 1 1/4 cups water
· 1 1/4 cups sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

For the Filling:
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A pinch of allspice
170 gm blanched almonds
155 gm raw or roasted walnuts
140 gm roasted pistachios
2/3 cup sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
125g melted butter

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside.
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter.
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. 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.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife score 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 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge

14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes.
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature


  1. Am totally there with you re the pastry! My homemade will never be as thin as it should but not only that, it had a funny aftertaste! Hmmm...

  2. Oh yes, the true challenge this month was rolling out that dough!! I like the look of your finished baklava, though - I love the decorative nut on each piece. Great work on the challenge!

  3. It was so hard! It definitely doesn't look disastrous - and it's a good job that it is such a tasty recipe to make all the preparation stress worthwhile.

  4. I can relate to the pastry issues too ! But hey it's all experience and that's what this site should be about :)

  5. i learned that very important lesson too! never again. yours still looks great! congrats :)

  6. Had a bit of a problem rolling out my dough too. But all's well that ends well, it was delicious and yours looks extra yummy!