Although I absolutely love baklava, it is often treated like a holiday treat in my house because it is so time consuming to make and rather expensive (walnuts and phyllo dough aren’t cheap). Also, the rich, nutty, heavily seasoned filling conjures up thoughts of Christmas evenings spent around a fireplace with a warm cup of spiced apple cider. (Okay, so this never actually happened in my house, but it sure happens a lot on TV, and sometimes I just want to borrow those cheesy, staged memories.) But then I came across a recipe for banana baklava in the July/Aug 2014 issue of Entertain Decorate Celebrate. (This is like a magazine version of Pinterest but a lot more organized.) Fruit in baklava? What an awesome idea! (Why haven’t I thought of that before?) I thought I would try their recipe first, and then break into different variations with other fruits . . . mango baklava, anybody?
Figure 1: Always, always, always prepare your pan in advance. Otherwise you will end up trying to un-pour something while barking expletives your cats should never hear.
Figure 2: I hate measuring by volume, so I weigh pretty much everything.
Figure 3: Don’t even consider using anything but real, wonderful butter. Here it is divided for use in the syrup and for the phyllo sheets.
Figure 4: Everything needed to make toffee syrup – yum!
Figure 5: Start the syrup by melting the butter.
Figure 6: Add the brown sugar to give it a nice deep caramelized flavor.
Figure 7: I could drink sweetened condensed milk. However, here I actually refrain from doing so to add it to the syrup.
Figure 8: The corn syrup is added not only for its slight sweetness, but also to give the syrup a nice high gloss.
Figure 9: As you can see, the syrup has a nice caramel color and is as shiny and glossy as a new car’s paint job.
Figure 10: Always add vanilla off heat – you want to keep that heavenly scent in the syrup and not send it off skyward. (It looks like I am still on the stove, but I have moved to a cool burner.)
Figure 11: I generally don’t use the very tip of my knife – it was just easier to photograph this way.
Figure 12: Although this picture is a bit blurry, you can see that I have laid the phyllo sheets on a sheet of wax paper, covered them with another sheet of wax paper, and then laid moist paper towels over that. This keeps the phyllo moist and pliable.
Figure 13: I have buttered the first sheet – I like to use a plastic pastry brush because it cleans easier and can be sanitized (as opposed to a wooden one which should be hand washed, this plastic one can go in the dishwasher!)
Figure 14: I didn’t think anybody could improve upon the spiced honey syrup of traditional baklava until I came across toffee syrup. I refrained from drinking it. Mostly.
Figure 15: Here I used walnuts, but I think next time I would like to try unsalted pistachios.
Figure 16: Bananas, quite possibly the world’s perfect fruit.
Figure 17: If you don’t score the phyllo before baking, cutting it afterwards will merely result in a flaky mess and tears. But looking back, I wish I would have cut diagonals as it is really rich and these pieces were a bit large.
Figure 18: Bake until a nice nut brown and crispy.
Figure 19: Here I did not use a squeezee to decorate the top layer of toffee syrup and I poured out in a blob-y mess. Next time – squeezee bottle for nice, elegant striping.
REFERENCE: Cookbook Entertain Decorate Celebrate magazine July/Aug 2014 page 88
Ingredient Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Oven Temperature: 350° F or 175°C
Baking Time: 35 minutes
MAKES: 30 servings
|unsalted butter, divided||1 1/2 c||12 oz||340 g|
|firmly packed brown sugar||2 c||15 3/8 oz||435 g|
|sweetened condensed milk||1 can||14 oz||535 g|
|light corn syrup||1/2 c||6 oz||170 g|
|vanilla extract||1 tsp|
|finely chopped walnuts||1 c||4 oz||115 g|
|bananas, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds||4 each||15 oz||425 g|
|thawed phyllo dough||1/2 package||16 oz||450 g|
13×9-inch baking dish
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with baking spray with flour; set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt ½ cup (4 oz) butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and light corn syrup stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Transfer 1 cup to a squeezee bottle, if available, to aid in decorating.
- Slowly melt remaining cup (8 oz) butter over low heat. Once melted, clarify the butter by skimming off the foamy top layer of milk solids, and slowly pouring off the middle golden butterfat while leaving the bottom layer of water. Note: I have used both clarified and unclarified (whole) butter in baklava. While the use of clarified butter is more traditional and some argue it insures a crisper product, I have used whole butter with no major adverse effects.
- Place 1 sheet phyllo in bottom of prepared dish. Brush with melted butter. Repeat procedure with phyllo and butter 5 times. Spread main batch of toffee sauce over phyllo; sprinkle with walnuts and top with banana slices.
- Place 1 sheet phyllo over bananas. Brush with melted butter. Continue layering remaining phyllo, brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush top with melted butter. Score baklava into diamonds with a sharp knife and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Squeezee/pour remaining toffee sauce over baklava immediately after removing from oven. (The baklava must still be hot while the sauce is room temperature to get the proper contrast of textures.)
- Let cool completely before serving.
MAKE AHEAD POINTERS:
Although the baklava will lose some of its crispness as it sets, baklava can be kept at room temperature for a few days. Personally, I recommend making it the day before.
POINTERS FOR SUCCESS:
Phyllo dough can be a hassle. Here are some tips:
- Purchase phyllo dough from stores that sell a lot of it, so it hasn’t been in the freezer long. Also, check the expiration date on the box. (Generally, one can *assume* that a more highend grocer will have greater turnover on phyllo dough.)
- Keep it frozen in your shopping basket – it will thaw quickly. Grab it on your way to the checkout register and get it in your freezer at home ASAP.
- If it partially thaws, moisture will build up in it, and will cause you problems later, so keep it frozen solid until you need it.
- Allow it to slowly thaw in your refrigerator ~24 hours before you need it.
- Have all your necessary equipment ready before breaking into the phyllo dough – butter, pastry brushes, nuts, etc.
- Keep it from drying out by covering it with wax paper and then draping a lightly damp cloth over it while you are working.
- Only use one sheet at a time and keep all the other sheets covered under the damp cloth.
- Don’t give up after one attempt – the results will be worth it! Give it another go!