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Cook's Illustrated baklava

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  • kudru Nov 29, 2007 07:38 AM

I want to attempt my first baklava... Has anyone made the CI recipe? Opinions? Better recipes?

Thanks!

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  1. I have not seen the cooks illustrated recipe. I have been making baklava for 30 years- taught by my mil in greece. I have posted it before on this site- do a search and if you can;t find it I will post it again. Baklava is not difficult to make especially if you are a person who knows how to cook. I think the secret is fresh phyllo dough. I will check the site later to see if you found it.

    10 Replies
    1. re: emilief

      found it- thanks!
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/321671

      ... when you say fresh phyllo, do you mean fresh as in home made?? -that has always sounded to me like it would be the ultimate excersice in frustration!

      1. re: kudru

        Wow, based on my one and only experience with strudel, I'll say!

        I've made baklava with frozen phyllo and it was darned good. So wonderfully very very sweet.

        Thanks for the link kudru.

        1. re: kudru

          OH NO! I mean if you can buy it from the greek store fresh- the same boxes you find frozen but they have not been frozen- it is easy to work with. When I hear people say that they have trouble working with phyllo I wonder if theybuy phyllo that has been frozen too long and is dried out. If you know of a place that sells frozen phyllo dough that is good then go for it. Good luck and let me know how it worked out.

          1. re: emilief

            whew, thank goodness - i don't think i'm ready to try fresh!

            thanks, i will let you know how it works out.

            1. re: kudru

              I was recovering from a day of baking when I checked in and found your post! I made the CI baklava today. I can't post on the flavor, because I'm letting it soak for a party next weekend, and I don't want to taste even a bite before it's ready. But it smells heavenly. I thawed my fillo overnight in the fridge and then for an hour on the countertop, and it was very easy to use (my damp towel was very damp, but not dripping). I got the fillo from a Lebanese grocery where I think they have high turnover of products. My only real caveat is that, though I think I was a pretty fast hand at the buttering, it took me a LONG time to get the thing assembled, and my oven was blasting away the whole time, preheating, so if you haven't worked with fillo before, give yourself at least a full layer before you turn on the heat. I subbed cardamom for cinnamon, because I'm making it for a cinnamon-heavy dessert buffet, and I think it'll make it more interesting (but in a good way). Oh, and I added another layer of nuts and fillo because I had lots extra, so maybe that was a mistake, but it seemed to me that there couldn't be too many nuts and buttery pastry (the little bits of billowed-up pastry I ate from a couple of the finished diamonds were great).

              1. re: tatyr

                You are letting it soak for a party next weekend?? I hope you mean this weekend. YOu really do no need to let it soak very long. RE other posts- I never cover the phyllo when I am making baklava- if the dough is nice and fresh and you work steadily you shouldn't need to do this. I can;t imagine how long it would take to cover and uncover the dough between every layer! Also, I pour hot syrup over the hot baklava - this is the way my MIL in Greece taught me. In any event, looking forward to hear how all of your baklava, CI and otherwise turned out!

                1. re: emilief

                  The recipe said that it is better if it stands for up to ten days, tightly wrapped, after pouring over the syrup. I did pour hot syrup over the hot baklava; that's what the CI recipe specifies. Covering the dough with a damp towel doesn't take all that much time--maybe two seconds for each layer.

                  1. re: tatyr

                    I really do not understand why the recipe calls for letting it stand for ten days. Baklava is great when freshly made. I hope it is not moldy or rancid when you unwrap it.

                    1. re: emilief

                      I too don't see the reason to wait that long but baklawa does last a long time without refrigeration.

                2. re: tatyr

                  do report back and let us know how it turns out!

        2. The trick is that you have to minimize phyllo's exposure to air because it will dry out and get brittle while you stand there and watch. 1) Have all your ingredients (butter melted and cooled, ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon) and equipment (pan; brush for spreading butter) prepared and at hand, 2) Have frozen phyllo at room temperature. 3) Remove just as many sheets as you need for that layer and quickly wrap up the rest airtight in Saran wrap. 4) Work fast to butter the phyllo sheets and layer them in the pan with the nut filling. Cut the squares while the baklava is raw. Bake. Pour the hot syrup over, filling the pan right up. All this will absorb overnight. Also: the first time I made baklava my son, then in high school, had a job at a Greek restaurant so he queried the chef for me. The advice I received was to boil the honey, sugar, and water for the syrup with a slice each of orange and lemon as well as a stick of cinnamon and some whole cloves. I haven't always seen that in recipes but the addition of the fruit makes a delicious syrup.

          1. I have made baklava many times. There really is no trick, its just hard work to layer everything and work with the pyhllo. I alway use the rule cold syrup hot baklava or cold baklava and hot syrup. I serve in individual cupcake papers. yum......

            3 Replies
            1. re: hipchick47

              Hipchick, here is a trick that really works. Baklawa can be made without buttering each layer. Not my grandmother's recipe but I've tried it and it works. I prefer to clarify the butter

              For a 16x24 inch pan:

              2 1lb Packages of Fillo dough
              4 sticks butter
              3 sticks margarine
              5 C walnuts
              1 1/2 C sugar
              6 T blossom water
              2 C simple syrup

              For a 13x9 inch pan use half the recipe.

              Grind walnuts in a food processor, mix with sugar and blossom water and set aside.
              Melt butter and margarine in a pan to allow salt and solids to settle.
              Prepare syrup and set aside to cool.

              Ladle 1 cup of melted butter/margarine in bottom of baking pan.
              Lay the contents of one Fillo dough box on top of butter all in one piece. You may have to trim the dough to fit the pan. No need to brush individual layers of dough with butter (what makes this recipe easy).

              Spread the walnut mixture evenly.

              Lay the contents of the other box of dough on top and cut with a sharp knife.

              Ladle the rest of the butter/margarine mixture on top (leaving the butter solids behind).

              Bake @ 350* F for about an hour till golden.
              Immediately pour cooled syrup over the whole thing.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                so the butter just seeps evenly through all the layers?

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Absolutely!