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Baklava with Homemade Phyllo

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.

Whoa, Nelly!  Phyllo dough from scratch?!  Yes way.

Baklava with Homemade Phyllo

I have a story that goes with this.  Sit tight, it’s a good’un. 

My friend Rachel (the original zebra bundt recipient) got married exactly five years ago from this past Saturday.  One of her husband’s aunts made the cake and iced it with buttercream as Rachel requested.  It was going to be sitting outside in the hot June weather, so the aunt kept trying to get her to go with fondant.

To make a long story short, immediately after Rachel and Josh got their photos taken with said cake, it turned into the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Cake layers started sliding and those nearby grabbed onto parts of it to save it from falling to the ground.  We all thought it was HILARIOUS, bride and groom included.  Well, all of us except the aunt: she was not amused.  She thought this was bad for her business and sent Rachel a letter about it.  Yikes!

(1. I did not take this.  2. I totally ganked it from facebook without asking, which may or may not make me a bad friend.)

You guys: How the heck does this have anything to do with baklava?!

Okay, so Rachel’s mom (as seen on the right in the above photo) always made baklava around Christmas time for her kids to take to their teachers as gifts.  Rachel picked up this tradition and makes it for her teacher colleagues and family.  One of the times she made it was for when she was visiting her husband’s side of the family.  When Wedding Cake Aunt found out Rachel made the baklava, her response was, “Well, did you make the phyllo dough from scratch??”

Guess what, ma’am?  We did this time!  That’s right, Rachel wanted in on this project, and I totally took her up on that.


I’m going to send you over to Erica’s fantastic how-to for the phyllo dough, complete with step-by-step photos.  We doubled the recipe!

adapted from one of Rachel’s mom’s cookbooks (possibly a compilation of church ladies‘ recipes from around the world)

This is the recipe that Rachel’s mom, Rachel, and I use (yep, I’ve made it quite a few times myself!).  While I contemplated doing something different or using the challenge recipe by Alton Brown, I thought that to truly test the difference between homemade and purchased phyllo dough, it would be best to keep the recipe as the constant.  (Look at me pretending to be all science-y.)

making baklava!

Note: this recipe is for a 9×13 pan!  I ended up halving this for an 8×8 pan for the doubled amount of phyllo dough (confused yet?).

1 cup sugar, halved
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped (or nuts of your choice)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted (half of this is plenty!)
1 package phyllo dough, thawed (or homemade phyllo x4!)
1 1/2 cups honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 325F.  In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of the sugar and pecans.  Butter a 9×13-inch dish and then lay down 3 layers of phyllo dough.
Brush butter generously on dough, then coat with a thin later of the sugar/pecan mixture.  Add the next 3 layers and keep repeating, ending with 3 layers on top.
Butter and then cut into 1″ diamonds before baking.  Bake for 50 minutes until lightly golden, making sure it doesn’t burn.

While baking, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, honey, cinnamon, and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat to cool.

Immediately after removing the baklava from oven, pour sauce evenly over it.  Don’t be alarmed, it’s going to make the best sizzling sound.  Once cool enough to handle, remove baklava from dish or else it will harden.  We like to put the pieces in cupcake liners, then store in an airtight container.  This makes it way easier to handle, for transporting, gifting, and eating!

yummy layers

Verdict: although we’re both happy that we can now say we’ve made homemade phyllo dough, Rachel and I prefer the thinness of the machine-made stuff you can buy at the store (phew!).  It’s more light and crisp.  However, the homemade is also good, too!  It has more of a doughy taste and is more chewy and hearty, though still with some crispness.  So, it’s just a matter of preference.

In fact, Jill (who just gave me this awesome stripey tray! Thanks, Jill!) preferred the homemade phyllo.

one down, one to go...

In the 8 months of being a member of the Daring Kitchen, this is finally the first time I’ve been challenged to make something I had made before.  BUT!  I totally hadn’t ever even considered making the phyllo from scratch, so thanks for bravely challenging us to do so, Erica!  It’s a fun task to do with a friend.

(p.s. I hope I don’t get in trouble with this post!  Rachel has something like 11 aunts and uncles on her husband’s side though, and I’m pretty sure they don’t know I exist…)