Whenever I think of fresh handmade phyllo I always think about Shaharazad Bakery, a little shop in the Sunset district of San Francisco. The shop has been closed for years now, but from what I remember, the owner made excellent phyllo. A true artisan. I think he was the only person in San Francisco who sold fresh phyllo dough made by hand. He had a table in the back room that was just the right size for pulling out the dough. Sadly the shop closed when he retired.
For this month's Daring Bakers' challenge, host Erica asked us to make our own phyllo dough. It's so much easier to grab a box from the freezer section at the market, but making phyllo isn't that hard. The recipe Erica provided was the exact same recipe as the strudel dough recipe we used for the May 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge. The only difference was the rolling method. For the strudel, we rolled and stretched the dough into one big sheet. For the phyllo, we cut off small balls of dough and rolled each ball into a thin sheet. Rick Rodger's recipe is a really good one and it's so easy to handle.
Erica also wanted us to use our phyllo to make baklava. Baklava is a dessert made of layers of buttered phyllo and nuts. After it's baked, you pour a hot sugar or honey syrup all over and allow it to soak in. It's not difficult to make since most of the work is just assembling the layers. Oh, but then there's the waiting. It needs to sit in that syrup for a few hours to soak up all that sweet liquid goodness before you can eat it. If you want instant gratification, then you need to look elsewhere.
I'm not sure what nuts make a baklava an authentic one. The internet has a lot of "traditional" or "authentic" baklava recipes using all kinds of nuts. So for my nut filling, I used whatever I had in the house - walnuts, almonds and white sesame seeds. My husband thought the sesame seeds gave the baklava a vaguely Asian flavor that he found a bit overwhelming, but I really liked the sesame flavor. I've always found baklava too sweet which is why I never make or eat it, but I think that sweetness is the appeal of baklava for most people. So if you like 'em syrupy sweet, then this baklava recipe is for you. But I'm a girl who can eat her pancakes without maple syrup or butter so I won't be making baklava again any time soon.
The fine print:
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.
(from Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers)
Note: Recipe makes enough phyllo for one 8x5 inch pan of baklava. Double recipe for a 9x9 inch pan and triple for 9x13 inch pan of baklava.
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
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.
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.
Rolling the Phyllo
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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 should not dry out.
(adapted from Food Network's Alton Brown)
(makes one 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, approximately 30 to 60 pieces)
For the filling:
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
9 ounces walnuts
5 ounces blanched almonds
1/3 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 pound phyllo dough
For the syrup:
1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange zest
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the walnuts, almonds, sesame, sugar and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.
Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter.
Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 30 to 60 pieces. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.
Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.
After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.