Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daring Baker's June Challenge, Phyllo and Baklava

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love all of the challenges presented by the daring baker's.  Some of the challenges involve recipes that I've already attempted or made but it may offer different techniques to accomplish the end result, while other recipes I've never heard of or are something I've wanted to make but haven't found the appropriate reason to make it.  Well, this challenge was one that I have heard of and wanted to attempt for quite some time but I just haven't gotten around to making 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.

I have always wanted to attempt to make Baklava, but I knew it was a time consuming process and just never set aside the time for this.  Phyllo dough is something that I love; there is just something about the buttery, flakey dough that is just out of this world and I love incorporating it into different recipes.  I have seen the process of making phyllo dough one time and it was incredibly impressive, and there is such an art to the process but it never crossed my mind to attempt this dough at home.  I love that this challenge not only challenged us to make baklava but to also make the phyllo dough; which is the base of any baklava recipe.  I had a blast making not only the dough, but the baklava too.  This challenge was one of the more time consuming ones but in the end it was absolutely worth the time.  I can't wait to try other variations on this recipe and I can't wait to make my own phyllo dough to use in other recipes.  Thanks so much for the fun challenge, Erica!

Daring Baker's June Challenge
Daring Baker's: From Phyllo to Baklava


Phyllo Dough-

1 1/3 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 Tsp salt
1/2 Cup less 1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 Tsp cider vinegar, (white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar could be substituted, but could affect the taste)

***Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw and continue making your baklava. 

For the Baklava-
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
1Piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
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, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled.

For the filling-

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

15 to 20 Whole allspice berries
3/4 Cup blanched almonds
3/4 Cup raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 Cup raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 Cup sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 Cup melted butter

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt.  Mix with paddle attachment.  Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowo.  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 (I had to add a tablespoon more)

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 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through 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 ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)
Rolling your Phyllo-

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.

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, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.  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, then remove from 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.

NOTE: 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 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.


Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.  Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally.

Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.


Preheat oven to moderate 350°F.

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. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed).

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 9x9 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. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)

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!

Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.  Serve at room temperature

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