For many foods, the history behind them is foggy at best. Is baklava Greek? Or Turkish? There is even evidence that something very much like baklava was made in China way back when. To the history, I say, who cares! I don’t mean that in a culturally insensitive way, I simply mean that it doesn’t really matter, what matters is that something this delicious has stood the test of time, and has done so for a reason. I think we should just be glad of that and not be tempted to try to claim ownership.
I, personally, did not think I liked Baklava. Seriously. I had it as a kid and it was so sweet I couldn’t handle it. I hadn’t touched it since until we had a potluck lunch at work and my friend Rolo brought a pan of the most beautiful little baklavas. They were so cute, and unlike any baklava I had seen or tasted before.
What made Rolo’s baklava so special? A few things: it was rolled, which made it light and airy, not dense and sodden like it can be sometimes. Also, it was not too cloyingly sweet! Thirdly, it had a nice balance of chewiness, syrupy goodness, crisp pastry and toothsome nuts. Basically, it was heavenly.
Now, I have made a few small changes to the recipe he gave me, but this is very close to his version. The primary difference is that I added a good amount of honey for a portion of the sugar. I also added almond extract (just a drop) to amp up the flavour of the nuts. I also used orange rind in the syrup instead of orangeflower water, because I had already bought the $10 bottle of rosewater and didn’t feel like outlaying another $10 for another essence that I was likely to use only when I made this particular recipe. Beyond that, it’s very much the same, except that mine were a lot more … rustic … than his. His were perfectly rolled and uniform with no tears or holes. If his were made for a king, mine are definitely peasant style. Either way they are delicious!
One last note before you get on to the recipe: You will also need some sort of rolling pin for this, but not a typical one. About 18″ of 3/4″ or 1″ dowel from the hardware store is a cheap and sound investment for your rolled baklava career. Be sure to oil it lightly with paper towel and some vegetable oil before you first use it. To clean it, simple wipe it down with a warm damp cloth.
So, without further ado, I give you ….
Rolo’s Rolled Baklava
For the Pastry:
1 pkg of defrosted Phyllo/Filo Dough (can be found at your local supermarket, try to find the
one where the sheets of dough is in the shape of a rectangle, not square)
½ lb of unsalted butter (melted)
1.5 lbs ground nuts (I used 1 lb almonds and 0.5 lbs pistachios)
You will also need some sort of rolling pin for this, but not a typical one. About 18″ of 3/4″ or 1″ dowel from the hardware store is a cheap and sound investment for your rolled baklava career. Be sure to oil it lightly with paper towel and some vegetable oil before you first use it. To clean it, simple wipe it down with a warm damp cloth.
For the Syrup:
1 ¼ cup water
1 cup white sugar
3/4 of a cup of honey
4-5 strips of fresh orange peel
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/8 tsp of almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 baking pan (glass works best for this recipe to help add that stickiness to your baklava, metal tends to cool down too quickly to get the desired effect)
Start by melting the butter and making your filling. Grind the nuts in a food processor. Aim for the consistency of coarse sand with a few small chunks- large pieces with break the phyllo dough very easily.
To make the syrup, pour the water, honey, orange peel and sugar in a saucepan and dissolve the
sugar and honey at medium heat.
The ideal consistency is to pull the pot off the burner as soon as it reaches the point where is starts to thicken slightly. At this point, you may add your rose water and almond extract.
Remove from the heat and pour into a large measuring cup and allow to cool. Discard orange peel.
Carefully unwrap your filo and lay out one sheet on your work area. Cover the stack of filo leaves with a clean tea towel so they don’t dry out. t’s important at this point to also prepare yourself mentally for the fact that some of your filo will, inevitably, tear. Don’t sweat it. It’s gonna be okay in the end.
Lay the first sheet down so that it’s facing you horizontally (so it’s wider than it is tall).
Lightly brush the sheet with melted butter being careful to only use the clear butter (the key to giving the baklava a golden color when baking is to only use the melted butter that separates from the milk- milk is what will give it a brown rather than a gold color).
Sprinkle your nut mixture lightly and evenly over the whole surface of the sheet. Add another sheet of filo on top.
Take your rolling pin and start from the part of the sheet that’s closest to you and roll up away from you till
the entire sheet is wrapped around the pin. Butter the last edge (farthest from you) so that it will “glue” the roll shut when you get to the end.
Once it’s fully rolled, place one hand on each side of the wrapped phyllo dough making sure the seam is on the bottom, then slowly push both ends of the wrapped phyllo dough towards the center of the pin to scrunch it together (be careful as scrunching too much
will break it).
Using one hand, slide the scrunched phyllo dough into the baking pan and stretch it out width-wise and position it at the short edge of the pan. Repeat this process until all the phyllo dough is used up. (should make between 7-10 rolls depending on what your baking pan will fit and the diameter of your rolling pin)
Use the remaining melted butter to brush the tops of all the rolls. Put in the oven and bake for 25-30 mins checking it periodically to make sure it’s not cooking too quickly. The idea here is to get it to a nice golden brown and don’t be too concerned if it comes out a little on the darker side, the syrup will help lighten up the color a bit.
Once done, pull out of the oven and using a very sharp knife, cut into 1½ inch size pieces and IMMEDIATELY pour the cool syrup over the hot baklava so it bubbles and sizzles – DO NOT LET THE BAKLAVA COOL DOWN BEFORE ADDING THE SYRUP
OR IT WILL BE SOGGY! The secret is COOL syrup to HOT baklava to get that nice crispy buy sticky/chewy texture that we’re after)
You don’t have to use all the syrup but you do have to make sure every piece is coated with a little extra – it will soak up all the liquid as it cools, so don’t be shy to add a little more syrup while it’s still hot.
Sprinkle with reserved nut mixture and let it cool down (even over night) to absorb the syrup and thicken.
To store leftover baklava, cover loosely with foil to keep it crunchy – using saran wrap will make it soggy.