The Daring Bakers Make 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.

This month’s challenge was a lot of fun, and I was really excited to give it a try. Any baklava that I have had before has been flaky, super sticky, sickeningly sweet, and, well, just not that impressive. But I knew that anything we would do for the Daring Bakers would be down right awesome, so I was ready to give it a shot!

I cheated just a wee bit on this challenge. I didn’t make my own phyllo dough. I know, I know, that was kind of…the point…but, things have been a little hectic lately, and since I just did move 800 miles away, and then fly back to the midwest for my best friend’s wedding, and then fly home to spend 2 days with my husband before he starts residency on Tuesday (!!!), if there was any way that I was going to participate at all this month, it was going to require a little store-bought magic. And I’m actually quite glad that I did – there was no ridiculous rolling and rolling and rolling, no tearing, everything was super thin and perfect to handle. 
I am really pleased with the end result. While it is still the sweet, sticky, flaky pastry that I remember, it has much better flavor of anything that I have tried before. In fact, I only made half of the given recipe, and I’m having a really hard time not keeping my hands out of the pan! It’s so good, I can’t stop eating it!! We are going to have to make some new friends here, and quick, or we are going to end up eating way too many Daring Bakers challenges all by ourselves!
I’ll go ahead and post the recipe for the Phyllo, even though I didn’t use it. I suggest you give it a try!  There seems to be some disagreement as how to add the syrup to the baklava after it bakes. Some people swear that the baklava should be hot and the syrup at room temperature. Others swear that the baklava should be at room temperature and the syrup should be hot. Having no thoughts on this at all, I just followed the recipe as written and placed the room temperature syrup on the hot baklava. Give them both a try if you wish! 

Phyllo Dough:

*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
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


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 (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. 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

** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
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.
1. 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.
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 (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
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.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece 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
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

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. 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
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. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
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 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 9×9 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. (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)
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

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  • Reply
    June 28, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    Holy crap! I love Baklava! These look incredible and I WILL be in the kitchen doing this as soon as I'm back from the honeymoon. I don't know how you do it all with the move and jetting off to "random" weddings in completely different states! you are a superwoman!

  • Reply
    shelley c.
    June 28, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    I am amazed you were able to do this, what with everything you have been up to recently. I hope you have a chance to try the phyllo dough one of these days… it is truly an experience… 🙂 I'd say you'll be the most popular neighbor on the block if you share your challenge results!! 🙂

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Woah, Jen, your baklava is perfect and awesome photos! I gave up on the phyllo after three sheets, so I used boxed too lol. Also, I was told that it's hot syrup over cooled baklava..prevents a soggy bottom 🙂 Love the cherry pie pecan bars too!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Beautiful job on the baklava! It happens to be one of my favorites!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    It looks super tasty! Definitely try the dough when you get the time, it's worth the workout! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lori @ Girl Meets Oven
    June 30, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    Hope you had a great trip to the Midwest. I'm impressed you were able to bake baklava in between your travels. It is probably a good thing you used the store-bought dough. The phyllo dough making part is extremely time consuming.

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