The Bak-love-a You’ve Been Waiting For
By Renu Jain Chandarana
I know what you’re thinking. Baklava? I have not been waiting for Baklava. I don’t LOVE Baklava. Esteemed desserts include chocolate, fudge, caramel, warm pie with cold ice cream. Cake, gelato, crème brulees and trifles get the glory…the honourable mention goes to Baklava. Picked last on the dessert table, usually sliced in half because no one wants to eat a whole piece. That is, until now. I’m here to rock your nutty world. You’re welcome.
The baklava I like consists of six main ingredients: phyllo pastry (I pronounce it FEE-LOW), nuts, a syrupy sweetener, dried fruits, butter, and rose essence or orange blossom water (which can be optional.) Typically, baklava is made in large sheet pans with layers of phyllo pastry slathered in butter separating layers of dried fruits and nuts doused in syrup. It’s flakey, sweet, slightly crunchy and chewy with a hint of floral flavour.
I find it quite delicious but it can be quite sugary and dense not to mention labour intensive to make. So let’s take some shortcuts….let’s make this easier and healthier and still just as delicious. It’s possible, I promise.
The secret is to cut down on the phyllo dough and use the handy mini muffin tray to nestle your baklava pieces in. The beauty of the mini muffin pan is that whatever you put in it will stay contained and bite sized. These nutty little guys are easy to make, easy to transport, easy to eat and easy on the eyes.
Phyllo pastry dough can be found in the freezer section near the desserts. It comes in a long rectangular box and many sheets are rolled up together with a piece of parchment in the middle. It’s important to let the phyllo thaw to room temperature before you unroll the package or else it will break and crack. It’s quite gentle, however it can be forgiving as well. You can keep phyllo dough wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge and use it to make all kinds of desserts and savoury dishes. You can use the same technique as I use here with the mini muffin tray to make things easier – fill it with apple pie filing, or with a dry curry of peas and potatoes. The possibilities are endless.
The baklava filling is as equally important as the phyllo dough. Choose your favourite nuts and dried fruit but I would be cautious of raisins, I think they would be too sweet and might be too juicy after baking. This recipe makes way more filling than baklava pieces. I have a 48 mini muffin tray and I still had quite a bit of filling left over. I could have made another batch of about 12 or more baklavas but I chose to keep the filling aside to use as a topping on my morning oatmeal.
I think this is such a delicious mix of dried fruits and nuts. You can choose if you’d like to cut down on the ingredients and make just enough for your needs or have some extra to add some character to your breakfast or even a cheese platter. It keeps well in a glass jar in the fridge or a freezer safe bag in the freezer. Just bring it down to room temperature when you pull it out because dried fruit from the fridge can be tough on your teeth sometimes.
I think these mini baklavas will make a wonderful addition to any Diwali, Eid or even Thanksgiving celebrations. These are flavours and textures that every generation enjoys, not to mention that this version is not sugary and you can feel good about enjoying a sweet treat that won’t leave you feeling weighed down or guilty!
I would love to know your thoughts on this recipe and how it worked for you.
THE BAK-LOVE-A YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR:
Makes 48 mini muffin baklavas
10-12 sheets of thawed phyllo pastry dough
¼ to ½ cup of melted butter for phyllo dough
room temperature butter for lightly greasing the pan
1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dates
1-2 Tbsps Orange Blossom Water or Rose Essence (to taste or omit if you prefer)
Honey or maple syrup in a squeeze bottle (you don’t need to measure this out but for you keeners I use about ½ tsp to 1 tsp of sweetener per baklava)
- Place your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F.
- Prepare mini muffin tin by lightly greasing each mini cup with a little bit of butter
- Coarsely chop the nuts and the dried fruit. You can pulse in a blender or food processor if you like. You can choose whichever texture you prefer – minced or slightly bigger pieces like I did. Once the nuts and dried fruits are mixed together, add the essence and mix well to distribute. Set aside.
- Make sure you have a clear counter space to work on – enough for the phyllo dough to be unrolled and set aside next to the sheets you’ll be working with. I chose to use a large cookie tray with parchment on it as my surface to work on.
- Unroll the phyllo dough and take two sheets and place them on your work surface.
- Place a cold damp paper towel on top of the stack of phyllo you are not using.
- With a pastry brush or your fingers, brush (or rub) some melted butter on the top of the 2 sheets of phyllo dough (you only put butter on the top layer, the bottom one will be ok). Grab two more sheets of phyllo from the stack and place on top of the buttered one. Brush on some more butter on top of these two.
- Fold the buttered sheets in half and cut into 24 squares – 4 vertical cuts and 6 horizontal cuts. Gently place each square into the mini muffin pan.
- Repeat the above process to create 24 more squares. You will have leftover filling so feel free to repeat this process with remaining phyllo dough to finish off the filling. If you only have 1 mini muffin pan of 12 or 24 cups, make sure your phyllo dough is resting under a cold damp paper towel so it doesn’t dry out.
- Keep wetting the paper towel if necessary.
- Now that your phyllo cups are made placed, it’s time to add the filling! Spoon in the filling carefully, filling them right up to the top. Phyllo pastry doesn’t rise so no need to skimp on the filling! Once each cup is filled, add 1 squirt of honey from a squeeze bottle this amounts to about ½ to 1 tsp and that is all that is needed to bind the mixture together. If you don’t want to use honey, spoon in ¾ tsp or 1tsp maple syrup into each cup (sweeten to your liking.) Gravity will take its course and the syrup or honey will ooze into the filling as it bakes keeping everything together.
- Bake the mini baklavas for 12-15 minutes in your pre-heated oven. Keep an eye on them, you want the edges golden brown but not too light and not too dark. Bake times may vary depending on your oven so watch them!
These keep in an airtight container on the counter for just a few days because the phyllo loses its crispiness. If you put them in the fridge, they could get soggy from moisture.
Serve room temperature.
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