From Phyllo to Baklava...Daring Bakers June 2011

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 phyl...

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.

Ok, I know I'm a few days late in posting this, but hey, that's what happens when life gets in the way of spare time.

This month was my first challenge as part of the daring bakers team, and I did find it quite challenging. I have never tried making Phyllo (filo) pastry before, so it was a good learning curve for me. I have also never eaten Baklava. I have seen it - not very often - but it never really looked appetizing to me, I'm not sure why.

My Mum has eaten it before, and she said it is good, and that she liked it. So my first thought was 'at least it will get eaten'... I spoke too soon.

My finished Baklava

You can probably see in the photo that there is a lot of syrup underneath it...I am pretty sure it's not meant to be that way. But for now, I will start will my Phyllo story.

It wasn't making the dough that was the problem. It was the rolling of the dough. I didn't get any pictures of this process due to the fact I pretty much forgot. I'm kind of glad about that too, because it was a DISASTER! Erica gave great ideas on ways to roll it out thin - use a pasta machine, a special technique to roll and stretch it, stretch it with hands like pizza dough - I tried all... all options failed miserebly for me. I think my rolling pin was too big for the special technique. My pasta machine wouldn't make the pieces big enough. So, I turned to rolling as much as I could with the pin, and then stretching with my hands. Every piece I made had rips all through it, and were nowhere near as thin as they could have been. I have seen some of the daring bakers with book words visible through their dough! Maybe I need a bit more patience.
Dough starting to come to the right consistency

So after I made the dough, I went about the layering. This was no problem at all... until I realise that I should have made more dough, there wasn't enough for 4 layers each time. I think it ended up being 2-3. I carried on the process of layering and buttering. Cooked it in the oven and made the sauce. This was pretty uneventul this stage. After the Baklava had cooked, I put the sauce on it and left it overnight on the kitchen bench to soak in.
Layering the mixture - you can see a few of my dough sheets in the back there
Looking very messy ready for oven

The next morning, I woke up excited to see what it had turned out like. I re-cut the pieces, and moved them onto a plate - something wasn't right, they were oozing a lot of syrup, is it meant to be this gooey? what have I done wrong? - I tried a piece, my gosh was it sweet, I thought very hard about what to do with the Baklava that was sitting in front of me, Mum tried a piece - too sweet for her. So I decided that maybe if I put it on a cooling rack it might drain some off. It did, it also lessened the sweetness a bit, but not very much. I decided I would leave it on the bench and if it wasn't gone by the next afternoon, I would have to throw it out. A huge waste I know, but it just seemed far too sweet for anybody to eat.

I think the next time I make it (if there is one), I will try and vary the ingredients, and then not put as much sugar and honey - to be honest when I read how much of each was in it I did think about cutting it down, but I left it that way, I know now. I really enjoyed my first Daring Bakers challenge it was great, but just not really my taste. I can't wait for next month.

For now, here is the recipe, it is the same one that Erica gave, and she has some great photos with the instructions that you can see here they are a great help.

Phyllo Dough:
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 vinegar4. 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 (I had to add a tablespoon more)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. 8. 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.
9. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
10. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can.  I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me.  You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than 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 (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)7. 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.8. 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 machine9. 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 will not try out.
Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) honey
  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) water
  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup.  When you combine the 2, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

For the filling:

  • 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 15 to 20 whole allspice berries
  • 6 ounces (170g) blanched almonds
  • 6 ounces (170g) raw or roasted walnuts
  • 6 ounces (170g) raw or roasted pistachio
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • phyllo dough (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces (225g) melted butter ** you may need more or less


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped.  If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can.  Set a side
3. Trim your sheets to fit in your pan4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet5. Brush phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 8 times ending with butter.  (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.

 So if you attempt this recipe - have fun with it, make your own combinations of fillings even. Have fun as always

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  1. Way to go trying this out! Homemade phyllo sounds very intimidating. Sorry your baklava didn't work out!

    I saw an episode of the TV show Good Eats about making baklava. It looked very labor-intensive, but he made it sound easy. If you're ever interested in trying again (though I wouldn't blame you if you weren't!), you might see if you can catch a clip or recipe online.

  2. Yeah, the longest part was really the phyllo, but still took a while. I might have a look, then will decide if I want to make it again =) thanks for the tip.

  3. Sorry to hear your baklava didn't turn out as you liked. It looks very good though