Hahaha oh baklava. I really should just turn this into an amateur hour cooking blog where every week I try to cook something new and mess it up in all sorts of ways. I don’t even know what really happened with the baklava, except to say that that recipe from “The Joy of Cooking” was some bullshit. And also, I didn’t have the right size metal pan. Let’s begin!
The ingredients are pretty easy to collect. For some reason Albertsons was out of “fillo” dough (phyllo?) so I had to find it at Haggens but whatevs. I also had to toast the walnuts but I was a good sport and toasted them like a champ.
Brent asked me if baklava is “challenging” and it’s not, really. It’s relatively straightforward, but tedious. The phyllo dough is what will trip you up…so don’t dry it out! Every recipe I read suggests you thaw the dough and then lay it out between plastic wrap, with a damp cloth on top while you’re working. So I did and it worked perfectly.
I was instructed to take two sheets of dough, butter the top one, and place in the pan.
Okay here is when I realized my pan was too small, so the sheets don’t reach the edges on the pan. Oh well, onwards and upwards!
Then take two more phyllo sheets, butter the top, and place them in the pan, and repeat once more before adding some filling. So six sheets. Then I do the whole thing again with six more sheets. Add the rest of the filling, then the recipe says to “add the rest of the sheets.” Uh. That was over 30 sheets. I added six and called it a day. Then it says to top with “the remaining butter.” That was over half a cup! I brushed the top and then tossed the rest of the butter.
Note: At this point I have about 26 sheets left, and almost a stick of butter. But the filling (walnuts, sugar and cinnamon) was the right amount? What is happening here? It’s too late to add more sheets so I put it in the fridge to cool before I sliced.
Lol, slicing in a pan that is too big. I’m a rookie here. A couple cuts in I see how this will be a problem as the top few layer start slipping this way and that, but I keep at it until it looks strong enough to handle an oven. Cook for over an hour? WTF this isn’t going to work, is it?
Hey, 45 minutes in I have to make a syrup to add on top so I throw together my orange peel, honey, sugar and water and put it on the stove.
By this point I am watching the baklava like a hawk, sure it is getting burnt. The syrup is simmering and before it even finishes I call it a day and pull out the baklava. Finally the syrup is done and I strain it and pour it on top.
Turns out you can’t really eat baklava until the whole thing soaks and cools for “several hours.” So here is how I left my little experiment. Would it be edible? Good even? Only Friday morning Katie would know.
It’s Friday morning! Did the baklava fairy fly in and fix all my newbie mistakes? No? Oh well guess I gotta eat it anyway.
Final assessment: Passable. The baklava was pretty good, but there were several things I could improve upon.
1. It was a little overcooked. Something gave it a tiny tinge of “burnt” but I’m not sure what. It was in the nuts, not the pastry, so I may have over-toasted the nuts, or the whole pastry was over-cooked in the oven. Next time I will a) toast the nuts for 4 minutes, not five, and b) only cook the pastry for 60 minutes total (30 min at 325, then 30 at 300.
2. The pasty was getting a little sloppy when I tried to cut it, which I think is just because my pan was too big (may have also affected the cook/taste?). Anyway, a new pan is on it’s way for attempt #2.
3. I need to add more butter on the very top layer before cooking to prevent that top layer from peeling up while baking.
4. I think I will add more phyllo dough sheets in each layer. Right now they are at 6, might bump it up to 8. And possibly not use the entire mix of syrup since the bottom of the pastry was a bit drenched when it came out (I read later that before cooking you can slice the pastry until about half an inch from the bottom of the pan, so when you put the syrup on later it doesn’t all pool at the bottom. Then after the pastry cools you cut that final half inch before serving).
All that said, there were also some good aspects of my final product. The syrup was delicious – I wasn’t sure about reducing it with orange peel added but that orange gave the flavor a little more depth. Also, the “filling” (nuts and cinnamon/sugar) was a good amount as well, so no need to tweak that in the next batch.
July challenge is in the books. Not perfect but not a disaster. And another one I would like to revisit and teak until I can get it right.