So baklava has always been one of those mysterious yet super intimidating desserts that I have always wanted to try. I’ll start reading the instructions and think, “yes, I’ve got this”, but then all the layering of phyllo (or filo) dough just turns me off. Too much work. I’d rather just throw together some chocolate cupcakes and call it a day.
One super cold and dreary Milwaukee weekend, however (thankfully those seem to be a thing of the past), I decided to forge, full steam ahead, and make a giant pan of baklava as a kind-of-dreaded but highly-desired project. (a not so cheap project, either-as pistachios in bulk aren’t the cheapest nut to purchase.) As a side note, the original recipe called for hazelnuts, but, my grocer was actually out of hazelnuts in bulk-so I improvised with using different amounts of the other nuts (play around with this on your own, if you like) I figured since I had spent more than usual on ingredients, I was committed. And so I began.
And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Yes, you have to be vigilant and make sure that the phyllo dough doesn’t dry out during the layering process. Yes, sometimes the dough tears and breaks up a bit if it does get a little dry (don’t worry-I still ate those parts). But it’s really not so hard to make once you get the hang of it.
The end product? Worth every little dried piece and tear. Chocolate hazelnut spread (aka Nutella) with honey and pistachios equals pure perfection in my book. It may not be the prettiest dessert on the planet, but it serves its purpose oh so well.
Servings: about 24 pieces (depending on how you cut them)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (aka Nutella)
3/4 cup roasted unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Special equipment: a candy thermometer
1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the honey, water, and the cinnamon stick. Stir until the honey dissolves.
2. Increase the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 230 degrees (mine took about 8-10 minutes or so.) Remove the saucepan from the heat and keep the mixture warm. (Discard the cinnamon stick.)
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate hazelnut spread over medium heat until melted. Keep warm.
5. In a separate bowl, mix together the pistachios, almonds, walnuts, ground cinnamon, and salt.
6. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
7. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough with a damp tea cloth or light towel to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing the ends of the sheet to extend over the edges of the dish; lightly brush with the melted butter.
8. Repeat with 5 phyllo sheets and melted butter.
9. Spread about 1/3 cup of the melted chocolate hazelnut spread over the layered phyllo.
10. Sprinkle evenly with about 1/2 cup of the nut mixture.
11. Repeat steps 8-10 twice with phyllo, butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, and nut mixture.
12. Top the last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter.
13. Press the baklava gently into the pan.
14. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into your desired serving portions.
15. Bake until the phyllo is golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven.
16. Drizzle the warm honey mixture over the baklava; let cool.