Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge: 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.

For those of you unfamiliar with Baklava, its a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. I was first introduced to it while studying in Canada and I'm definitely a fan but I haven't had any since I left, so when I saw that it was this month's challenge, I was very excited. It would normally be pretty simple to make using store bought phyllo but this challenge required that we make homemade phyllo, which was, well, difficult. The recipe can be found on the Daring Bakers Website

I began with the phyllo dough which was made by combining flour, salt, water, vegetable oil and cider vinegar then kneading it until smooth and letting it rest for 2 hours wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. During the resting time I prepared the syrup by boiling a cinnamon stick, lime rind, cloves, honey, sugar and water together for 10 minutes. 

While the syrup cooled, I created the nut mixture by grinding the walnuts, almonds, pistachios, allspice and cinnamon in the food processor. 

The phyllo dough was ready for rolling and I followed the instructions as best I could, trying to get it as thin as possible by rolling and stretching. I then layered about 5 sheets of phyllo, making sure to butter in between sheets, then 1/3 nut mixture, then another 5 sheets, more nut mixture, until the phyllo and nut mixture were all used up. I cut the baklava into pieces and generously buttered the top.

I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then cut it again and baked it for another 30 minutes. It smelled amazing when it was baking which made me a little upset that it had to sit overnight and I wouldn't be able to eat it until the next day. I removed it from the oven and it was lovely and golden. 

It looked just like the picture in the recipe and I felt a sense of achievement. I poured the syrup over it and left it to absorb overnight. There was so much syrup that my baklava actually began to float but I wasn't concerned since the recipe said we should expect it to be a lot of syrup but it would be absorbed overnight. The next day though I awoke to disappointment. The baklava was drowning in tons of syrup. I had to pour off the excess.

The flavour of the baklava was sweet, with wonderful spice. The flavour was terrific. But everything else was turned out to be well, not so great. The baklava was very wet and sticky, the  "phyllo" I made wasn't thin or flaky enough and the cinnamon sticks hadn't been ground up small enough so every now and then I bit into a very tough bite of stick. Had I known that would happen I would've just used cinnamon powder. I was very disappointed since I was so looking forward to recreating this dessert. I will definitely try it again one day, but with store bought phyllo and a different recipe and see if I have better luck. 

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