Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baklava



I first discovered Baklava on my trip to Greece after college.  My four college roommates and I backpacked through Europe for one month after graduation.  We visited Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, and ended with a week in Corfu, Greece.  We stayed in hostels, traveled through the Eurorail, and treated ourselves to one authentic meal in each city... It's a trip we'll always remember!

As you can imagine, our most memorable meal was in Italy- Venice in particular.  We stumbled upon a restaurant- a real Italian hidden gem.  There was no sign hanging from the door or tourists filling the small modest space.  In fact it was tucked away through a long narrow street we found ourselves lost in.  A woman who was standing outside of the entrance, noticed us- a group of American girls looking lost, hungry, and confused.  She welcomed us in and sat us at a table.  All of the other restaurants that had been recommended to us throughout our trip were filled with English speaking waiters, but she didn't know a word to help translate the menu.  So she took the menus and hand picked the most amazing family style meal we had ever eaten.  The dishes were simple- pasta with red sauce, but the best pasta you can imagine.  Thinking back, it's a scene right out of a movie.

While the pasta was best in Italy, I remember the Baklava in Greece.  We were traveling on an 8 hour boat trip to the Greek Island, Corfu, when I noticed a plate of freshly made Baklava staring at me.  The syrup oozing from the layers of nuts and thin flaky dough.  It looked too good to resist- and it was.  I enjoyed every bite of it and looked for Baklava in every shop we visited after my first encounter with it.

Since our trip, I haven't thought of Baklava until recently.  My mom mentioned she found a recipe and made it with her friend. She brought in a piece for me to try and I literally savored every bite with my eyes closed envisioning myself back on the beaches of Corfu.

This Baklava is just as I remembered it....

Recipe Tips
  •  Make sure to use the damp cloth system.  When doing this, be careful not to put the moistened cloth directly on the phyllo or it will turn the dough into a mushy consistency.  Also, don't leave the cloth off of the phyllo for long because it will dry the phyllo out.  If you use the plastic and moistened cloth system as I described it, you'll have no problems!
  • Be very careful when making the syrup.  Watch it carefully while it cooks because the solution can boil over easily if the temperature is too high.  If the liquid appears to be foaming and doubling in size,  immediately move it away from the heat.  Lower the temperature and place it back on the stove.  I read the original recipe and it said to keep your temperature on high.  I did and it boiled over and spilled everywhere... not fun.  When I made it a second time, I kept it at a controlled low simmer and although the liquid didn't thicken (not sure if it's supposed to) the baklava tasted fantastic.
  • No particular science or technique to laying and brushing the phyllo.  Phyllo is very delicate so handle it carefully.  When laying your phyllo in the pan, it doesn't have to be perfect.  Most importantly, make sure they line up one on top of each other and are buttered evenly over the entire surface.


Start with combining your chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and mix until combined:

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Evenly distribute your walnut mixture into three bowls:

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Then roll your phyllo dough out on a clean surface:

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Cover your dough with the plastic it was wrapped in:

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Then moisten a clean towel with water and lay it over the plastic.  Make sure your cloth isn't soaking wet, but lightly moistened.  Don't allow the cloth to sit directly on the phyllo or it will turn the dough into a mushy consistency.  Make sure to always leave the cloth over the dough, otherwise it will dry out:

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Meanwhile, melt 1 stick of butter:


 Then take a 9x13 glass pan and brush the bottom and sides with the melted butter:

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Take one sheet of phyllo and place evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Gently press the phyllo down onto the pan and smooth out any creases or air pockets that may form:

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Generously, brush the entire surface of the phyllo dough with butter:

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Then lay another sheet of phyllo down over the first piece.  Repeat these steps 8 more times until you've laid 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Melt additional butter as needed throughout this continued process:

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Once you've buttered your 10th piece of phyllo, empty your first bowl of walnut mixture in the middle of your pan:

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Spread it out evenly over the entire surface:

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Then lay 6 more sheets of phyllo down, buttering in between each:

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Spread your second bowl of walnut mixture:

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Evenly spread the walnuts over the entire surface:

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 Layer another 6 sheets of phyllo, buttering in between each:

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Top with your remaining bowl of walnuts:

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Lay another 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Generously brush the top with butter:

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Then carefully slice your baklava into 2 inch thick diagonal cuts:

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Then slice 2 inch thick vertical cuts to create a diamond shape:

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Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before adding the syrup:

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Begin preparing the syrup 30 minutes before the cooling process is done.  To prepare the syrup, combine your honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange or lemon peel in a 4 quart sauce pan:

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Cook over medium/high heat, stirring constantly until your sugar dissolves.  Then let your mixture reach a simmer.  Monitor your pan carefully because the mixture can boil over quickly if the heat is too high.  Once the liquid has reached a simmer, cook for 10 minutes:

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Then remove your pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and peel:

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Pour your liquid evenly over the top of your baklava:

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Leave your pan to sit uncovered until cooled.  Then slice into the same lines you originally cut because the syrup and baking process will bind the cuts together:

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Then prepare your chocolate mixture by combining your chocolate chips, cream, and instant coffee in a large mixing bowl.  Using the double boiler method, melt your chocolate until smooth:

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Drizzle the chocolate over your pan:

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Then cover and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours or overnight:
 
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Serve and enjoy!


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Baklava
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes: 16 diamonds or 28 squares
Prep Time: 1 hour, not including cooling periods
Cook Time: 1 hour
(Printable Recipe)


Ingredients
Baklava
2 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
8 ounces butter, melted

Syrup
1 1/4 cups honey
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2 inch piece) orange or lemon peel


Chocolate
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee




Directions
Preparation
To prepare your ingredients, start with combining your chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and mix until combined.  Evenly distribute your walnut mixture into three bowls.  Then roll your phyllo dough out on a clean surface.  Cover your dough with the plastic it was wrapped in.  Then moisten a clean towel with water and lay it over the plastic.  Make sure your cloth isn't soaking wet, but lightly moistened.  Meanwhile, melt 1 stick of butter in a small bowl.  

Assembly
Take a 9x13 glass pan and brush the bottom and sides with the melted butter.  Take one sheet of phyllo and place evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Gently press the phyllo down onto the pan and smooth out any creases or air pockets that may form.  Generously, brush the entire surface of the phyllo dough with butter.  Then lay another sheet of phyllo down over the first piece.  Repeat these steps 8 more times until you've laid 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Melt additional butter as needed throughout this continued process.  Once you've buttered your 10th piece of phyllo, empty your first bowl of walnut mixture in the middle of your pan.  Spread it out evenly over the entire surface.  

Then lay 6 more sheets of phyllo down, buttering in between each.  Empty your second bowl of walnut mixture into the center of the pan and evenly spread the walnuts over the entire surface.  

Layer another 6 sheets of phyllo, buttering in between each.  Top with your remaining bowl of walnuts, evenly spreading it over the entire surface.  

Lay another 10 pieces of phyllo sheets, buttering in between each.  Generously brush the top with butter.  

Baking 
Then carefully slice your baklava into 2 inch thick diagonal cuts.  Then slice 2 inch thick vertical cuts to create a diamond shape.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before adding the syrup.  

Syrup
Begin preparing the syrup 30 minutes before the cooling process is done.  To prepare the syrup, combine your honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange or lemon peel in a 4 quart sauce pan.  Cook over medium/high heat, stirring constantly until your sugar dissolves.  Then let your mixture reach a simmer.  Monitor your pan carefully because the mixture can boil over quickly if the heat is too high.  Once the liquid has reached a simmer, cook for 10 minutes.  Then remove your pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and peel.  Pour your liquid evenly over the top of your baklava.  Leave your pan to sit uncovered until cooled.  Once cooled, slice into the same lines you originally cut because the syrup and baking process will bind things together.  

Chocolate
Then prepare your chocolate mixture by combining your chocolate chips, cream, and instant coffee in a large mixing bowl.  Using the double boiler method, melt your chocolate until smooth.  Drizzle the chocolate over your pan.  Then cover and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours or overnight.  Serve and enjoy!

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49 comments:

  1. My sister is a Nun at a Greek Monastery in Washington, and every time I visit, her Abbess sets aside a plate of Baklava for me. Love it. :)

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  2. If I wasn't Italian, I would want to be Greek for this simple reason! Looks amazing Chels!

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  3. Wow that looks so delicious! I would never think to make that myself, your's looks wonderful!

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  4. Beautiful tutorial! Wish I could reach through my screen and grab a piece, it looks delicious!

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  5. This looks AMAZING! I hope I have the patience to make this someday soon.

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  6. Do you ever take a break...I am sending my husband over for some of these...You are one heck of a busy bee!

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  7. Beautiful pics and a very syrupy looking bake. Mmmm... I have put this on my 'naughty things to bake to do list'.

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  8. Gorgeous pictures!! That looks fantastically yummy. A lot of work though...did it really only take an hour??

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  9. I'm a sucker for baklava - but with chocolate - you put me over the top!

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  10. @Lauren- Thanks! So happy you liked the post :) It seems like a lot of work, but it's really quite simple! The total time spent on this wasn't one hour, but the prep/assembly time was about that. It's definitely not a dish you can whip up quickly because it has to cool a couple of times and let the syrup soak, but the hands on time isn't as bad as you'd think it would be.

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  11. I absolutely love Italy. My husband and I dream about their pasta. You can't get it anywhere else. Greece will hopefully be our next stop in Europe and this is what I will eat!

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  12. Wow, you did an amazing job with this. I am so impressed!

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  13. Beautiful job with the baklava! The syrup isn't supposed to get thick, no. You did it perfectly. A secret that my mother taught me was to put the hot syrup on cold baklava or cold syrup on hot baklava to keep the phyllo from getting gummy.

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  14. Wow this looks delicious! I love Baklava. What a great recipe!

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  15. OMG Chelsea this looks AMAZING!!! Yummmm.
    Magie

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  16. @The Mom Chef- thanks for the helpful tips!

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  17. Awesome photos, I made mine just bot different-I'm not using cinnamon and also I m not cutting before baking. You did fantastic job..love how it turned out so beautiful!

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  18. I'm glad you did it with walnuts! When I came to the USA, I was really surprised many people are doing it with pistachio... and although that is a totally legit version too, I am used to the walnut version and find it much tastier too :)

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  19. These look so sticky and delish. I love the chocolate drizzle!!

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  20. Whoa, impressive! This looks incredible

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  21. Love, Love, LOVE Baklava! Was first introduced to it when I worked in a Coffee Shop, and have been in love with this treat ever since! This looks so gorgeous, like the perfect little treat! Beautiful!!!

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  22. My family took a vacation to Crete when I was 13, and it was there that we fell in love with Baklava. I'm so glad you posted this recipe, I'll definitely have to try it out:)

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  23. Sweet, delicate, and delicious! Love the chocolate drizzle!

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  24. I haven't made baklava in so long, but your photos have me yearning for some. Yours looks fabulous~

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  25. This looks amazing. I would like to be an official taste tester. :)

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  26. hi Chelsea
    what a wonderful story of your time in Italy and Greece, I just loved Venice, and we were lucky enough to wander off the tourist streets into the real Venice....sigh...just incredible! As is your baklava, you did such a great step by step presentation of this classic that I think that even I could make it!
    congrats on your top 9 today, it is well deserved!
    cheers
    Dennis

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  27. These look great. I have never made baklava for the effort involved but you are tempting me to give this a try. Congrats on the Top 9 on foodbuzz.

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  28. wow, this looks incredible! I am very impressed :)

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  29. "A scene right out of a movie", so true! I felt that way every day while I traveled the Amalfi Coast. I have yet to visit Greece, but since I married a Greek man that trip must come soon!? If left to my own devices I could probably eat an entire tray of baklava. Nothing like the oozing honey and flakey phyllo! Congrats on Top 9!

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  30. This looks amazing! I just made a version with chocolate and hazelnuts... and put cocoa nibs in the syrup. It was my first time working with phyllo, and I luckily didn't encounter any problems!

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  31. Baklava is my mother's favorite dessert and I'm definitely going to keep this recipe in mind for Mother's Day this year! It looks absolutely gorgeous!

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  32. You should be proud of your baklava. It looks absolutely delectable and much, much better than most store-bought baklavas I've tried (I hate it when the baklava is swimming in the syrup...).

    I don't know much about the Greek baklava but the Turkish variations are really good. They even have chocolate baklava with cocoa in the phyllo dough. It's amazing!

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  33. This treat is a lot of work, but so worth every effort! Looks like you perfected it here!

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  34. This looks so delicious! Very complicated but definitely worth the wait!

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  35. I have long wanted to make my own baklava and now I have a wonderful recipe. I went to Greece years ago and theirs was very tasty. We went to Mykonos, Hydra, Porthos and Athens. Nice photos!! Congrats on the Top 9 today!!

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  36. My mouth is watering it looks so good!

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  37. this looks to DIE for!! cant wait to have this for dad's bday!!! love you!!

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  38. Baklava is one of those desserts that I love getting when eating out, but now that I keep seeing it all over the blogsphere I know I just have to try it. Yours looks fabulous.. absolutely perfect.

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  39. I love baklava and those looks divine. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the top 9.

    We invite you to share this post and some of your favorite posts on Food Frenzy.
    Please check out our community at http://blogstew.net/foodfrenzy

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  40. Thanks so much for the step-by-step. Baklava is a treat that I've never thought about making at home, but phyllo has always seemed too delicate to use. Maybe i'll give it a shot!

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  41. What a lovely story, and your baklava looks amazing!

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  42. OMG!!! Your baklava is better than many of those made in Greece!!!!
    Greetings from Thessaloniki!!

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  43. I first discovered Baklava in 2nd grade when a Lebanese friend brought it for a class party. I had no idea what to make of this layered sticky dessert. Since then, I've met and tasted many other versions of this treat. As I got older and became for fascinated with the intricacies of pastry, I wished I'd paid more attention to the delicate layers when I'd had the chance, but never had the courage to try it for myself. I stumbled on this recipe today in my recipe hunting and it may have inspired the courage for me to try.

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  44. Oh my - i am a huge fan of baklava - never made it at home but this might just be the recipe.

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  45. Chels,
    that looks SOOO yummy!!!! Being half Lebanese I'm CLEARLY a huge fan of this post.

    A couple things to try out next you make it if you want a slight variation!

    The Lebanese version tends to have finely ground nuts, so taking the filling and throwing it in a food processor first. I also swear it has little green bits in it too so I think adding some pistachios in the mix will help give it that bit of color.

    And as much as I hate it, Rose Water, makes a HUGE difference in mediterranean pastries. They add this to everything even if you don't know they did. You'd only need like 2 or 3 drops for the whole thing. ( I prefer orange water over rose but my dad--a crazy foreigner-- swears that it goes in this)

    I'm curious to see if you'd like this mini variation!

    xoxoxo
    Y

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  46. I LOVE baklava but have yet to make it. Never seen it with chocolate, but it looks beautiful.

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  47. hello friend Iam from Greece.I thing your baklava is very greek becouse with pistachios is the Turkey version.In Greece we DON'T use rose water in baklava BUT we use milk butter and all house smell wonderful

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