(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 was definitely a challenge.  I’ve never made baklava before, and it certainly never occurred to me to roll out my own phyllo dough.  Like so many of the challenges, it wasn’t so much "difficult" as it was "time-consuming". 

Start with a basic dough of water, flour, salt, oil, and a bit of vinegar (to adjust the PH).  I mixed it up in my stand mixer, then kneaded it (in the stand mixer!), then wrapped it in saran wrap for just over two hours to relax.  It didn’t rise, because it has no leavening, but if the gluten doesn’t relax after kneading, it can be nearly impossible to roll out.

I was supposed to end up with 20 layers, but I miscounted somewhere and only ended up with 18.  Even 18 was a lot of rolling – it took me close to an hour to do them all. I couldn’t take pictures while holding them up, but every layer came out nearly thin enough to read through.  I use a silicone map with ruler markings, so I could be sure to get the size close to right.

I never understood how to roll things out square – the closest I can ever get is "rounded rectangles".  But it was close enough.Baklava

One they were all rolled out, I trimmed them to fit my pan.  I tossed the scraps in a bag in the fridge – I haven’t ruled out doing something with them.   Baklava Then they got layered in the pan.  Every sheet of dough gets brushed with butter before laying down the next one.  I ended up with 4 sheets on the bottom two layers, and 5 on the top two.

Baklava In between each set of layers, I put a layer of nuts and spices. The recipe called for almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. But I had a big bag of pecans, and it is Texas, so I used the pecans. Because doesn’t everyone love Texas-Greek fusion?

The recipe also called for whole allspice, but my food processor destroyed the nuts before it even touched the allspice, so I picked out all the remaining berries and sprinkled in some ground allspice.

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One it was assembled, it went in the oven for an hour, with a quick check at 30 minutes to make sure I’d sliced all the way through the layers.  While it was baking, I made the sauce from honey, water, sugar, and a cinnamon stick.

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The sauce smelled amazing.  One they came out of the oven, I poured the sauce over the top, and let the pan sit in the fridge overnight.  I have about half the sauce left – it would be amazing over vanilla ice cream!

Baklava

Next time, I’d be tempted to add some flavoring to the dough.  Phyllo is usually just structural, but if I’m going to make it from scratch, I’d like to try adding flavors to it.  Maybe some sort of pocket pie, with spicy phyllo on the outside and ground meat inside?

All in all, a fun challenge!  I look forward to next month!

( see the recipe )

Today’s recipe is from Houston Classic Desserts (Classics Series).  I was having people over on short notice, and I wanted something different.  I’d gotten the book a few days before, and flipped through it, looking for something that didn’t take all day in the kitchen, but was a step up from my usual cookies.

And I can’t ever resist a sandwich cookie, and these looked really, really good. 

The outsides are a particularly peanut butter-y – two whole cups of peanut butter! – and some oatmeal, but they’re otherwise a standard peanut butter cookie recipe.  I really enjoyed them, and I’d make them again just to eat as peanut butter cookies.

They get scooped onto a baking sheet:

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And flattened after they’re baked.  I was tempted to put the traditional fork marks in them, but I didn’t.  Anyone who got within ten feet of them could smell the peanut butter, so I didn’t think it was necessary.

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One side of the filling is marshmallow fluff.  The other side is peanut butter, a bit of butter, and powdered sugar.  I was tempted to use crunchy peanut butter, but I was worried that it would get stuck in the piping bag.  Next time, I might sprinkle a handful of whole nuts in the middle, too.

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Assemble.  Eat.

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They’re good.  I’m not a huge fan of marshmallow fluff, but these were good.  I’m make them again – maybe one of these days, I’ll just throw an entire party based around sandwich cookies!

( see the recipe )