Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' June Challenge - Phyllo and Baklava

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.

When I first read about this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge, I thought: “Oh, baklava. Cool. I know where to buy some nice phyllo dough, and – Wait, it has to be homemade phyllo? … Now that’s a challenge!”

It feels like it’s been a while since there’s been a truly hardcore DB challenge. I think the last one that had me quaking in my boots was the January one, the entremets. Not that any of the challenges since have been boring or too easy. Some were whimsical and creative, such as the edible containers challenge, others revolved around something not particularly difficult, but that I was glad to have the opportunity to make, such as the panna cotta challenge. But making your own phyllo? That’s on another plane altogether.

My father-in-law got all excited when I told him about it. He offered to lend me his pasta machine, to help get the dough paper thin. Since I’d been meaning to borrow the machine anyway, I gratefully accepted, and promised a full report and a share of the resulting dessert in exchange. I know I’ve said this before, but having in-laws who live just down the street and have an over-equipped kitchen is just wonderful for completing these challenges.

As it turns out, though, the pasta machine really wasn’t necessary, or even ideal. I made the dough and kneaded it by hand. It was soft and supple, and reminded me of the strudel dough I made for my second ever DB challenge. The pasta machine could certainly get the dough to super-thinness, but it was an obstacle to getting wide sheets. So I ended up running the dough a couple of times through the machine, to a moderate thinness, then stretching manually to finish the job.

It really wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected, just time consuming. To tell the truth, I was pretty tired by the end, but that was mostly because I’d been cooking all day: it was a holiday (Saint-Jean-Baptiste), and I went a little overboard with the cooking projects. In addition to the baklava, I made bread, ribs, and barbecue sauce. Fortunately Laurent pitched in and took care of the chicken stock, coleslaw, and oven fries.

One unexpected problem was that I ran out of dough before I could get enough sheets. And the sheets I did have were, for the most part, barely big enough to cover my 9x9 baking dish. So, I settled for using a 9x5 loaf pan, and using only three sheets per layer, as opposed to five.

Honestly, once the phyllo dough is ready, baklava is a cinch to make. The filling consists of nuts, spices, and sugar, and can be made in seconds with a food processor. Assemblage is just layering buttered phyllo and alternating with the filling. Anyone can do it. There’s also a quick syrup to cook up and pour over the baked baklava. And that’s all there is to it.

The filling tasted great. The phyllo, to be honest, could have been crispier. I suspected I put too much syrup, even though I had halved it to fit the size of my baklava. But I’m glad to have given homemade phyllo a try, if only for the bragging rights.

My thanks to Erica for a true blue challenge. Please check out the challenge recipes here, and go through the Daring Bakers’ blog roll to see how everyone else has risen to the occasion!


  1. This looks fabulous! Must be nice having a well-equipped kitchen so close ;) Delicious!

  2. I thought about using my pasta maker, but I was too lazy to get it out of the cupboard to try. Your baklava looks great, and I love that red tablecloth/napkin it's sitting on. Want!

  3. Very cool challenge making your own phyllo. Sorry it was not crispy enough but that syrupy shot in the pan makes my mouth water!

  4. Valerie, loved that you did so well with the phyllo, the photos make it look effortless, so I'm even more embarrassed that I gave up. The loaf pan was a genius idea since the sheets weren't big enough for the 9x9 pan, and the finished, drenched baklava looks amazing! One thing I learned was to pour hot syrup over the cooled baklava instead of the reverse..less soggy that way :)

  5. beautiful job!! looks delicious

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