(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.

Baklava

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.

Baklava

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 )

Turtle Tart

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Vanilla Garlic. I’d been looking for an excuse to get myself a set of little tiny tart pans, and it pushed me over the edge. My favorite two restaurant supply stores didn’t have the mini tart pans, so I ended up making a trip to Williams-Sonoma. I got home, gathered ingredients, and got started. This is one of those recipes that takes a few hours, but only needs 15 minute chunks of attention here and there.

The crust is a traditional tart crust with some cocoa added. I used Hershey Special Dark Cocoa – I’m not generally a big Hershey fan, but it’s the darkest, richest cocoa I’ve ever found. It makes mind-blowing brownies, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, you make the crust, press it into the tart pans, bake them, then let them cool. Then toast the pecans, dice them finely, then sprinkle them on top of the crust. Next, make the caramel – I included the recipe from the original post here, but any soft caramel recipe will work. This one makes about twice as much caramel as you’ll need for the small tarts, but the leftovers are amazing on ice cream.

Pour the caramel gently over the pecans, sprinkle with kosher salt, then let them cool again. This is what they looked like before the ganache:

Turtle Tart


The ganache is easy – the recipe said to boil the milk in a saucepan, but I always burn milk in a pan. I just boiled mine in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. If all the chocolate doesn’t melt, you can put it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so at a time until it does. You don’t want it runny, just soft.

Spread it on top of the caramel, and you’re done!

( see the recipe )