I wanted to make my husband something for his first “Father’s Day” (we have a dog and a baby due in October so I know some people wouldn’t really consider that a “Father’s Day”, but we do!), and I knew I wanted it to be something sweet. Now, he is NOT picky – he will eat almost anything I make, but I wanted to make him something he loves, something that I have never made before – and instantly it came to me – BAKLAVA! This sweet, flaky, nutty Greek dessert is something he always orders at restaurants, but I have never attempted at home
Why haven’t I attempted it at home, you might ask? Well – the honest truth is that phyllo dough scares the crap out of me. Seriously – its one of those ingredients I just stay away from at any and all costs – paper thin dough that tears easily and is a bear to work with? Pass. Serious, hard pass on that. But – once I did some research and realized that the dough would really be the ONLY hard part of making the baklava, I decided to give it a go (anything for my man!)
So Friday night, I attempted to make it. I neglected to follow the defrosting directions on the dough, and just went and opened it after letting it thaw for a mere 20 minutes on the counter – I thought “how important could that overnight fridge thaw and then 30 minute counter thaw be?” Um. As it turns out – it was VERY important. I ruined a whole package of dough (it just crumbled and flaked EVERYWHERE) – and I might have cried a little. But I persevered – left the dough in the fridge overnight and when I came back to it Saturday morning I had a MUCH easier time with it – so easy in fact that it has restored my faith in humanity. Or at least in flaky pastry anyway
Here’s me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (literally – I’m 24 weeks along!) layering the dough and nuts
Once the layers were all set, it was time to cut it into squares – and eat some of the leftover dough apparently? He said it tasted like “pie dough flavored paper”. Yuck. Luckily it will taste much different once its baked!
Various prep stages – making the sauce while the baklava baked, and then the baked baklava gets a healthy coating of sweet honey sauce
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
-Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.
-Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
-Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
-Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.
So I realized as I was getting ready to make this that there are a few tiny flaws with the recipe – the first being it doesn’t tell you to melt the butter – but you will want it to melted so you can easily brush it onto the pastry with a pastry brush. Also, it doesn’t say how many layers to do of the 2 sheets of dough/butter/nuts – so I just did as many as I had chopped walnuts for (like 6 I want to say?) then topped it all with the suggested 8 layers of dough (and more butter of course!). Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t have any problems
The gorgeous finished product looked almost too pretty to eat (but my husband definitely didn’t agree- he wanted to dig in!)
He was more than ready to take a bite of this delicious looking and smelling dessert (so much so that he ate it for breakfast!)
The results? He loved it! I tried some too (in the name of research of course!) and I loved the mix of the crisp pastry layers and the nuts and sweet honey – it turned out great, and I know for sure I will have trouble getting him to share more with me…but hey, its his father’s day gift – he can do what he wants with it!
Happy Father’s Day to all the current and soon-to-be dads out there!