Monday, June 27, 2011


When I joined the Daring Bakers (a group that meets online where bakers make their own variation of the same recipe each month), I was really relieved to see that they had already made puff pastry from scratch, and strudel from scratch, as I had no desire, and absolutely no patience to make these pastries.

Fast forward to this month for my fourth challenge, and I learn that 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.

Oh boy. First of all, I've only eaten Baklava once before. Second, I'm not a big fan of flaky dessert. I don't like appetizers made with phyllo dough. And most importantly, I hate rolling out dough. And of course, phyllo dough, is paper thin!

I knew this was going to be a real challenge for me. Erica provided us with recipes for the phyllo dough, nut filling and honey syrup, but we could use basically any recipe we wanted, as long as we made the phyllo dough from scratch and used it to make Baklava. Since I had no clue what I was getting myself into, I chose to follow the recipe as it was given to us.

So basically, since the dough needs to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two hours, I made the dough first. I doubled the recipe we were given so I'd have enough to fit into my 8-inch square pan. While that was resting, I made the filling, then attempted to roll out the dough, using my pasta machine. First sheet went well, second went horribly wrong and ended up in the garbage, third went ok, fourth ended up with me cursing and tossing it in the garbage. I thought I'd try it again with the rolling pin, but that resulted in more swearing and me throwing the whole batch of dough in the garbage. 

Both my husband and I knew that was going to happen, since I have very little patience for these kinds of things. So he agreed to go to the grocery store to get a box of frozen phyllo dough, while I watched the episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown makes Baklava. He makes it seem so easy!

Alton said to put the frozen dough in the microwave for 60 seconds instead of letting it thaw overnight in the fridge. So I did that, but it was still kinda frozen, so I put it in for 30 seconds longer, and decided that was good enough. It wasn't. I cursed some more while trying to separate the layers of paper thin dough. It didn't go well. The phyllo ripped, suck together. I was already in a foul mood from the failed batch of dough and my patience by that point was non existent. So my pastry layers were not even, some of them were 3 thick without butter in between, I ran out of clarified butter (well brown butter, since I left it to "clarify" too long) and used veggie oil... An over all mess.

In any case, I got everything in a 9 by 13 pan, and scored it before putting it in the oven. I was dreading the cutting part so much, and surprisingly, that was the easiest part of this process! I baked it for 30 minutes, cut the baklava again, then baked it for 30 minutes more. Meanwhile I made the syrup and let it cool. When the Baklava was done, I cut it again, and tested the syrup but it was still hot. So I decided to let the Baklava cool and warm the syrup again so I could pour it on the cooled Baklava. I don't know why one needs to be hot and one needs to be cool, but I thought with everything that went wrong with this recipe, I should at least get this simple step right!   

I'm not going to provide the recipe for the dough, as I really, really suggest buying it frozen if you really feel the need to make this dessert. But do visit the Daring Kitchen for the original recipe with the best step by step pictures I've seen in a while! Erica did a great job putting this recipe together!

Baklava Filling

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch cloves
3/4 cup (6 oz) hazelnuts
3/4 cup (6 oz) walnuts
3/4 cup (/6 oz) pistachios
2/3 cup sugar

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

Baklava Assembly

1 package phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup butter, clarified

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
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 9 times, for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo, ending with butter.
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 5 times, for a total of 6 sheets of phyllo, ending with butter.
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 5 times, for a total of 6 sheets of phyllo, ending with butter.
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 7 more times, for a total of 8 sheets of phyllo. 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 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. 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. (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 you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot. If the syrup is cool enough, you can pour it on the baklava when it comes out of the oven, but if not, you can warm the syrup again once the baklava is cool, and pour the hot syrup on it.

1 1/4 cups honey
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

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

When ready pour the 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

Although I wasn't a big fan, my mom and dad really liked it, and it disappeared quickly. I'm kinda sad that I wasn't *daring* enough to attempt this recipe until I succeeded, but I value my sanity too much. Can't wait to see what next month has in store for us.


  1. Oh, man, that was a truly frustrating experience. I am so sorry that the phyllo gave you such a tough time. But I'd never be able to tell that the process was so difficult and frustrating by looking at your finished product - it looks beautiful!! And Alton Brown makes almost everything look easy, doesn't he???

  2. At least you tried. You have more patience then I. Après toute cette fustration, tu as réussi ta recette finale. Félicitations pour ta persévérance. Le tout semble très délicieux.

  3. I had a lot of frustrating moments too. Thank goodness for supportive husbands. Mine knows when the challenge is on at our house,sit back and watch the action but don't expect dinner on the table that night!

    Glad you got through to the end and your finished Baklava looks beautiful!

  4. Boy, the phyllo made life miserable for ya, didn't it. But all that matters is, you TRIED! Kudos to that and honestly if I didn't read your post and just looked at the pic, it looks nothing like failure. You did well, and ya Alton sure does make it look easy peasy.

  5. I really respect your honesty...I had my share of cursing and my heart really goes out to you but I love your end product.and the pictures are stunning..

  6. Oh, my, but think, you DID try to make something you don't like, and a few sheets came out well :-) The outcome with the frozen dough looks gorgeous, so congrats on the challenge and I hope you find the next one more enjoyable :-)

  7. It is a bummer your phyllo misbehaved, but your baklava looks amazing!

  8. How funny! I had the almost exact same experience, but instead of running to the store - my husband went running from the kitchen to stay out of my way as I tried to salvage a few sheets of dough. Your photo looks beautiful anyway. Love the colors!

  9. I too struggled with the phyllo. I could hear my frozen phyllo laughing at me from the freezer as I muscled my way through it. Alas, I did love it in the end. Even though it wasn't your fav, you sure took an awesome photo. Well done!

  10. Oohhh I had a bit of a problem rolling the phyllo dough too. Your baklava looks so sticky sweet and delicious!

  11. Yes, this challenge was certainly a test for the old patience! I will be very happy if the next one doesn't involve rolling out any dough... ;)

  12. Oh..this sounds so awful..but it makes me feel less like a quitter when I see that you went through the same ordeal as me! Your baklava turned out beautiful! No idea why Alton said to nuke frozen phyllo..never a good idea..only natural thaw. Maybe he has a special microwave made for phyllo? lol

  13. Your baklava looks awesome! I have made baklava many times before and I have to say I have always wanted to try phyllo. I totally understand your frustration...I had a few moments myself, while I was making this!

  14. merci pour ta visite et pour ton gentil commentaire!! malgré les déboires que tu as eu avec la pâte phyllo, ta baklawa est délicieusement appétissante! j'adore les petits grains de grenade qui l'accompagnent! bises! kouky

  15. Sounds so frustrating... but that final photo is gorgeous! :)

  16. oh, my gosh! This looks so amazing. Nothing like fresh baklava!

  17. At least you had a go :) I'm actually a fan of phyllo pastry and didn't notice that much of a taste difference between home-made and bought, so I wouldn't sweat it.The final baklava looks fantastic, well done.

  18. Sorry to hear the phyllo did not work for you. Im glad you were able to complete it with the frozen kind. It looks delicious!!

  19. It sounds like this one was truly a challenge for you! At least you got it made, and it looks wonderful. I just noticed that you live near Ottawa--I live in Ottawa. Small world.


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