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.
If anyone ever tells you that it's a snap to make your own phyllo dough, just kick them for me. Sorry, but I have spent the last three days struggling with doughs that resemble nothing more than large balls of silly putty! Just look! This dough was such a bear to deal with ... sticky, springy, and frustrating. I tried using little flour on the rolling surface, no flour on the rolling surface, flour only on the rolling pin, no flour on the rolling pin - I just couldn't make it work. Aaargh! I can feel my blood pressure rising two days after the ordeal! Well, life is too short for that kind of stress.
In a final fit of pique, I marched to the super and bought two boxes of ready-made, marched right home, and made this month's baklava recipe. I totally blew the rules of the challenge, but I got my baklava! Of course, with every Daring Baker challenge there is a certain amount of wiggle room and this month the room for creativity is in the type of filling one chooses to place between all those paper-thin layers of phyllo. Well, it's summer in New England and blueberries are all the rage right now. So, I opted for dried blueberries, almonds, and pecans with a blueberry honey and lemon syrup for drizzling over the baked baklava pieces.
The key to the filling is to grind the nuts first and then combine the sugar and dried blueberries and grind the berries with quick pulses of the food processor or blender. The berries get broken up somewhat, but keep some body. I can't imagine trying to chop the nuts and berries by hand ... anyway, you get a nice sandy looking filling.
The phyllo ready-made was the perfect width for my 9 x9 inch pan. I just trimmed the length and used the short sheets overlapped for the middle layers of phyllo. I used the square sheets for the bottom and top layers.
The baklava has four layers of phyllo and three layers of filling sprinkled over the dough ... and a lot of melted butter brushed on all those phyllo sheets. Did I tell you that this sugar bomb of a dessert is not for the faint of heart dieter?
I did use much less butter than the recipe called for ... a mere five tablespoons, but still, this is an incredibly rich dessert. After all the layering, one cuts the baklava into its finished triangles. The key here is being sure to use a sharp knife and making short stabbing cuts. It was the only way I could keep the phyllo sheets from shifting on themselves.
While it baked, the pieces began to separate a bit ... perfect for easy serving. A blueberry honey syrup got boiled up on the stovetop and then drizzled over top just as the baklava came out of the oven. If I make this recipe again, I will use less syrup, as it is really sweet and it really soaked the baklava. I think I'd prefer a bit more crunch to my pastry and less oozing sweetness. Granted, most of the syrup was absorbed overnight, but boy! Sweeeeet! In the morning the pieces were plopped into little paper cups for easy serving. This baklava was destined for a 4th of July party at a neighbor's house.
1 package frozen phyllo sheets from your supermarket (you will need 40 sheets)
5 to 6 tbsp. butter, melted
¾ c. pecans
¾ c. blanched almond slivers
¾ c. dried blueberries
½ c. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. allspice
⅛ tsp. cloves
¾ c. water
¾ c. blueberry honey
½ c. sugar
Lemon peel from half a lemon
1 cinnamon stick
Making the Baklava:
1. Remove the phyllo dough from the freezer and thaw for two hours.
2. Melt the butter in a bowl and set aside.
3. Mix the nuts together in a food processor bowl and pulse until they are finely ground. Pour them into a bowl and set aside.
4. Mix the dried blueberries and sugar in the food processor bowl and pulse to knick the berries and pulverize them a bit. The sugar will become slightly tinted with blueberry pieces.
5. Turn the berries and sugar in with the nuts, add the spices and mix well with a fork to incorporate all the filling ingredients. Set aside.
6. In a deep saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring often and watching the syrup closely. Boil for about ten minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and add the blueberry honey and the lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Return to the heat and boil until the syrup coats the back of a spoon and forms a soft drip that just doesn’t want to let go of the spoon edge.
8. Remove from the heat and cool the syrup.
9. Unwrap the roll of phyllo sheets and unroll them on a cool clean counter top.
10. Lay a 9 x 9 inch baking pan along the wide end and slice across the phyllo sheets to make squares that fit the bottom of the pan.
11. Begin making the phyllo … brush the bottom of the pan with melted butter and then begin layers. Baklava will have seven layers: phyllo, filling, phyllo, filling, phyllo, filling phyllo. Each phyllo layer has ten sheets and each sheet gets a light butter brushing. Filling layers are all ⅓ of the filling.
12. Finish by brushing the topmost layer of phyllo with butter. Then, use a sharp knife and cut the baklava into 30 pieces. Make three cuts that divide the square into thirds and then cut diagonals. Refer to photo in blog post if you must.
13. Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake the baklava for 20 minutes. Then lower the heat to 325° F and remove the baklava. Use the same sharp knife to go over the cuts you made earlier, this time making sure you cut right through the bottom layer of phyllo. Return the baklava to the oven and continue baking another 20 minutes.
14. When the top is a dark golden brown, remove from the oven and drizzle the cool syrup over the top of the baklava, being sure to saturate the entire top surface.
15. Place the pan on a rack and let it cool. The syrup will slowly be absorbed into the baklava.
16. Cover loosely and leave overnight.
17. In the morning use a flexible icing spatula to remove the slices of baklava to a serving platter or to small paper muffin cups.
18. Serve with strong hot coffee or tea.