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NOVEMBER 1998
RECIPES



Laid-Back Fudge

Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

German Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Baklava

Souffle au Chocolat (Chocolate Souffle)



SweetSpot

 


Chocolate Baklava

Tips: Baklava is a traditional Greek pastry, made with many layers of paper-thin dough called "phyllo", a nut-and-spice filling, and a honey syrup. This version has chocolate, too. This takes time and patience, and working with phyllo can be tricky, but baklava is a terrific holiday dessert,it must be made at least a day in advance (preferably longer), and it will keep for at least two weeks at room temperature if covered very tightly.

You can use good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate for this; I thought that the bittersweet overwhelmed the nut filling, but some of my testers really preferred it.

To bake this, you'll need two aluminum pans, each 13" by 9" by 2", and a baking sheet that's longer, wider, and shallower (a 15" by 10" by 1" sheet is fine).

I have found that the best way for me to work with phyllo dough is as follows: make sure the phyllo is at room temperature (do not open the box or the sealed bag in which phyllo comes until you're ready to work with it).

Have ready the nut filling, melted butter, a soft pastry brush, your baking pans, a pair of kitchen shears, a small sharp knife, and a large, sharp, serrated knife (you may also want a ruler if you like to be precise).

Make sure the oven is preheated. On a large work table, lay out a dish towel or sheet of wax paper larger than the unrolled phyllo sheets will be (the box should tell you the size of the sheets). Have ready another dish towel, very lightly dampened, and a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.

Open the phyllo box and remove the dough from the bag. Unroll it and lay it out flat on the first (undampened) dish towel or sheet of wax paper. Quickly cover with the second wax paper sheet/plastic wrap, then the dampened dish towel. Make sure all of the phyllo is covered!

Working quickly, uncover the phyllo, and place your baking pan upside down on the dough sheets. Trace around the outside edge with the small sharp knife. With the kitchen shears, cut along the lines you've traced. Leave the trimmings in place; you may use them later. Re-cover the dough, and make sure to keep it covered while you work with it..

Syrup:

  • 1-3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon, each about 3" long
  • Finely grated rind of 2 large, deep-colored oranges (no white pith)
  • Few grains salt
  • 1 c. mild, light honey

Filling:

  • 1 lb. shelled walnuts or almonds
  • 12 ozs. good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Assembly:

  • About 1 lb. phyllo dough, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • Water

For Syrup:
This must be made first, as it should be at room temperature when the baklava comes out of the oven. However, it can be made a few days in advance and stored, tightly covered, at room temperature. In heavy-bottomed, nonreactive 2 quart pot, combine all ingredients except honey. Place over medium heat and stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil (you want the sugar to dissolve before it boils). Reduce heat so syrup simmers; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in honey until thoroughly blended. Strain to remove spices and orange rind (you won't get out all of the rind--OK). Cool completely, then cover tightly and store at room temperature until needed. Do not refrigerate! This syrup will be very thick when cool.

For Filling:
In food processor fitted with steel blade, process nuts by "pulsing" processor on-and-off until they are very finely chopped. You don't want a nut paste, so be careful. Turn nuts into a large bowl. Process chocolate by "pulsing", too, until very finely chopped; again, you don't want a paste. (Both nuts and chocolate can be chopped by hand, if desired.) Combine chocolate with nuts. Add ground cinnamon and cloves and mix very thoroughly. Set this mixture where you'll assemble the baklava. Now, adjust oven rack to center position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For Assembly:
The idea is to form a pastry with three layers, each of multiple sheets of phyllo, and two layers of Filling. The box of phyllo should tell you about how many sheets of dough you have; 26-30 is typical.
Divide the number of sheets by three, and that will tell you how many you should use per layer. Using a bit of the melted butter and the pastry brush, lightly butter the bottom and sides of one of the 13" by 9" by 2" pans. Uncover the phyllo; place one cut sheet (remember you cut them to size earlier?) in the bottom of the pan, quickly covering the remaining phyllo. Quickly butter this sheet lightly, again using the melted butter. Repeat this process with a second cut sheet of phyllo. Continue building a layer of phyllo, lightly brushing each sheet with melted butter as you place it in the pan, and periodically lightly tamping down any extra dough on the sides of the pan to make your phyllo layer as even as possible (this isn't critical--it just makes the finished product look neater). When you've built up a layer of phyllo with about 1/3 of the total number of sheets you have, make sure any remaining sheets are covered. Place about half of the chocolate-nut Filling on top of the top sheet, and spread it as evenly as possible. Repeat this process, making another layer of phyllo sheets (lightly buttering each and using another 1/3 of your total number), then covering the top sheet of the phyllo layer with the remaining Filling and spreading it as evenly as possible. Build a final layer of phyllo sheets, lightly buttering each, with the remaining dough. It is VERY important to remember to re-cover the phyllo each time you take a sheet of dough from the stack; you don't want the dough to dry out. If your phyllo is uncooperative and tears, don't despair. You can use the trimmings as part of your dough sheets, patching them together as you go along. Just make sure the last piece of dough you put on top of the baklava is a whole sheet (it looks better), and make certain to lightly brush the top sheet with butter. If you need a bit more butter, cover everything to keep it from drying out, melt the butter, and proceed with the recipe. If you have butter left over from the amount called for, that's OK.
Once the pan of baklava is assembled, take the large, sharp, serrated knife and cut the baklava from one corner of the pan diagonally across to a point roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of the way along the opposite side. If you want to use a ruler now, go ahead; you'll make two parallel cuts, one to either side of the original, and each measuring about 1-1/2" away from the original. The idea here is to cut the pan of baklava into strips approximately 1-1/2" in width. Don't just score the top sheets of phyllo; cut down as far as you reasonably can. If some of the top sheets of phyllo shift a bit, replace them. I find it helpful to keep the spread-apart fingers of one hand firmly on the baklava while I cut it. The corners of the pan are likely to give more trouble, too--just do the best you can. Now, make cuts at a 90 degree angle to the first cuts so that your pan of baklava will be cut into diamond shapes, 1-1/2" on a side (shapes will be triangular on the edges of the pan). Work as quickly as possible while doing this. Place the pan of cut baklava into the second, empty 13" by 9" by 2" foil pan.
Go over to the sink.Wet one hand with cold water and flick drops onto the top surface of the baklava.You don't want the top surface really wet--just dampened with water drops.
Place the doubled pan of baklava onto the cookie sheet, and place all in the preheated 350 degree F oven. Bake about 1 hour and 20 minutes, switching baklava back-to-front about halfway through, until it is risen and a light golden brown. Remove all from oven, then set cookie sheet aside and place doubled pan of baklava on sturdy cooling rack.
Now, using a large spoon, ladle about half of the cooled syrup all over the top of the baklava (when it first hits the hot baklava, the syrup will sizzle). Do this slowly, so that the baklava has a chance to absorb the syrup, and make sure you get syrup into the edges and corners.
Let the baklava rest for 5-10 minutes, then slowly ladle the remaining syrup all over the top. It will look like there is too much syrup, but the baklava will absorb it.
Cool completely at room temperature, then cover airtight with something that won't touch the top surface of the baklava (heavy-duty aluminum foil works well). Let stand at room temperature at least 24 hours before serving.

To serve, re-trace cuts you made in baklava with small, sharp, serrated knife. I like to serve the diamonds in foil baking cups; I usually keep the smaller triangles for snacking. 30-36 diamonds and additional smaller triangles.

8-10 servings


© Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

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