Saturday, 23 June 2012

Baklava with Homemade Phyllo Pastry

If I were to ever be lucky enough to somehow cook as a profession in the future, there would be lots of people I would need to thank.  Of this large group of people there are these three that used to teach me in high school.  I'll talk about the Geography and TOK ones in another post, as this will be about the English one.  These baklavas were a request from him -- quite a terrifying task as he's Greek.  Anyway, English lit was never my strong point in school.  I really wish I was good at it, because I liked my teacher, he's a nice guy, but I just wasn't very good at all that analysis stuff.  I admire people that have a natural talent for such things, I feel like English lit is one of those subjects where you can't and become better at it, God knows I worked hard, well, maybe not hard enough, but some people can sleep through all the classes and still achieve outstanding grades.  Bastards.  I know too many of them.  I don't know what their secret is, maybe fish oil capsules or some intense brain-training courses starting from a ridiculously young age.

Baklavas are quite simple to make -- but making phyllo pastry at home was unnecessarily ambitious of me.  I did it more out of my Chinese cheapness than out of ambition, actually.  Phyllo pastry, along with other imported wonders from the civilized world, are ridiculously expensive here in Beijing.  In fact, The Guardian ranked Beijing as the 17th most expensive city in the world for expats.  That's more expensive than London!  I didn't want to spend so much money on ready-made phyllo, especially since buying all the nuts had already wounded my wallet. 
Remember to flour each sheet well after you've made them paper-thin.  Nothing will get you screaming in frustration as the discovery of layers of thin hard work stuck together into a big thick piece of sheet. 
It takes a long time, patience and love and care and, yes, patience, lots and lots of patience with phyllo.  The first time I made it it was a disaster -- it was too thick.  It's meant to be so thin that you can place it over a page in a book and be able to read all the words.  Patience, loved ones, patience. 
I did this as a Daring Baker's Challenge, even though I'm a few months behind when the actual challenge was actually set.  So, this recipe isn't mine, but I've made a few tweaks here and there.  It takes ages if you want to make your own phyllo -- ok maybe I'm just incompetent, because I think in total it took me 5.5 hours.  Not smart to start making these things at night.  
This is right before the oven! 
Right before pouring in the syrup!

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 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
1 tbsp lemon juice, 

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)
1/2 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter + 1/2 cup olive oil ** I did not need this much, less then half**


Phyllo Pastry
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.

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, cloves and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

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 9x9 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!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
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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