The phrase, “Let’s eat sweets, talk sweet” is a very frequently used one in Turkey. It reflects our desire to talk about nice, joyful things in our lives but we can not do as such unless we are eating sweets! So we eat puddings, icecream, pastries, candy, chocolate but nothing beats the place of baklava in our culture! This is the dessert that we bring as a hostess gift to the places we are invited, the vacuumed packages that we tuck into the deep corners of our luggage, the food that we are willing to fight for if another country claims the rights to it!
So when I saw the Daring Bakers’ Challenge for June, I was so excited that I finally had the chance to try my grandma’s baklava! She and the rest of the family make baklava only two-three times a year for special weeks that we celebrate. She makes the dough, rolls it out. My mom layers it with nuts. My grandfather used to cut perfectly diamond shapes. Then the melted clarified butter is poured over it, baked. Then layers of baklava sits in syrup overnight, getting ready for next day’s guests.
Blog-checking lines: 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.
My grandma Emine’s recipe is very different than what we were given by Erica. I have attached the recipe here. The major difference is that Erica’s recipe is healthier! She makes it in a 9″x9″ pan with 18 layers of dough and brushes the butter on the layers. Although she called out for 2 sticks of butter, she mentioned that she used only half.
Emine, on the other hand, uses four sticks of butter and divides the dough in 5 pieces first. Then she divides each piece of dough into 15 much smaller portions. She rolls out each small piece up to an 8 inch diameter circle. She stacks up 15 circles, sprinkling generous amount of wheat starch between the layers. Then she rolls out the whole stack to 16 inch diameter circle. You might not see the point of rolling out individual pieces at first if you are going to roll out the whole thing together. But the starch between the layers keeps them separate as it bakes. So you get single layers eventually. Also, with 5 layers of dough and 4 layers of nuts, it tends to be a tall baklava! I used ground walnuts and pistachios. I noticed that they blended with the dough and prevented baklava becoming crunchy. So if you like to feel that crunch when you bite into it, opt for chopped nuts.
The syrup amount that my grandma gave was a bit excessive for my taste. But she says it will soak it up in a day. Next time I make it, I will try 2/3 of the amount.I had already altered the recipe and instead of dividing 1/5th of the dough into 15 small pieces, I divided into 6. So I had 30 layers of dough and it was enough work for me! Imagine my grandma’s with 75 layers! I used 16-inch diameter deep baking pan, but next time, I will halve the recipe and make it in a smaller pan.
Without waiting for the next day after baklava soaks the syrup, I ate a piece and was reminded again why I do not eat baklava often or only one piece when I do. Two words for you: Sweet & heavy!
If you don’t want to clog your arteries or go into a sugar coma, there is a fake dessert called frozen yogurt that might satisfy your sweet tooth. But if you are thinking “What the heck!, there is a pill for those, Bring It On!” , then here is Emine’s recipe:
- 800 gr unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 300 ml vegetable oil
- 300 ml whole milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 eggs
- Wheat starch (to sprinkle between the layers)
- 4 sticks of butter (you might get away with 2)
- 8 cups of sugar
- 7 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 6 cups of ground walnuts (or use the nuts you like – it should be enough to cover each layer of dough)
- Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a big bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients and combine to make it a soft dough.
- Cover, let it rest for an hour.
- Make the syrup, set aside.
- Divide the dough in 5 equal pieces. Set 4 of them aside and cover with plastic wrap.
- Divide one piece of dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each of them into 8 inch diameter circles. Stack the circles on top of each other with wheat starch sprinkled between the layers.
- Roll the stack big enough to fit your pan.
- Put the layer in the greased baking pan.
- Layer the nuts over the dough.
- Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.
- When all the layers are done, cut the baklava in square or diamond shapes.
- Turn the oven to 340-degrees.
- Spoon the melted clarified butter over baklava evenly.
- Put the baklava in the lukewarm oven.
- Bake until it is golden brown (about 1 hour to 75 minutes).
- Right after it comes out of the oven, pour the cooled syrup over hot, sizzling baklava.
- Let it rest overnight.