Daring Bakers June Challenge: Baklava and Homemade Phyllo dough

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 paniced a little bit when reading the challenge. This kind of recipe requires a lot of time and patience; things, I don't have lot's of (especially patience). Finally I made it - as always - and daring enough for me I guess. I was suprised as with every challenge that the result was tastier and prettier than I could have imagined. I hardly could stop my boyfriend trying before I took pictures ("No, I didn't take pictures yet. Back off!") This recipe is something to be definitively made again (but only with store-bought dough) ;) !

Phyllo Dough
will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish
recipe source: "Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
  • 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)
Note: I just used a fork and my hands, and it came out perfect, so you don't realy need fancy kitchen supplies ;) For the rooling part - I'm not really gifted (or trained) when it comes to rolling out dough. My 'sheets' weren't as large or as thin as supposed. It reminded me sadly of the Strudel-Challenge were I was Fortune favoured. This time, I had only ONE (out of 12) sheet without holes.
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt. Mix with paddle attachment. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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 dry out.

Adapted from Alton Brown, 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.
Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.

Note: My dough just fitted a small pan, so I halved the recipe for the filling. I used the occassion to use up all the rests of nuts in my household which were peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. I had only 12 layers of dough, so I changed to 3 layers (the thickest) - half of the filling, 4 layers - half of the filling, 5 layers (the thinnest).

  • 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 
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark. 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. 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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