Classic baklava typically features walnuts or almonds and sugar syrup spiced with cinnamon. Our baklava recipe is a decidedly more decadent variation with flavors of chocolate, hazelnuts and espresso, although the technique of layering thin, crispy phyllo dough with melted butter remains the same and there is the hot syrup component as well. We like the “spirited” zing that the Frangelico or Kahlua liqueur brings to the syrup. You can easily just leave it out.
If you delve into the preparation of baklava you will find proponents of adding hot syrup to cold pastry, hot syrup to hot pastry, and cold syrup to hot pastry – each camp declaring that their technique produced the least soggy result. After much experimentation, we have fallen into the first camp. There is an alchemy that seems to happen before your eyes as you pour the hot syrup over the pastry. The heat of the syrup seems to penetrate the pastry and melds the flavors and textures together in an optimum way.
- 2 cups peeled hazelnuts
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate such as Valrhona Equitoriale (55%) or Callebaut semisweet, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ pound frozen phyllo dough, such as Athens brand, defrosted
- 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup mild-flavored honey, such as orange blossom or acacia
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, such as Medaglio d’Oro
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico or Kahlua liqueur
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350° F.
- For the Pastry: Place hazelnuts, chocolate, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse on and off until finely ground; set aside.
- Unroll defrosted phyllo dough and cut the stack into a 9-inch by 9-inch square (discard the trimmings). Cover the stack of phyllo with a damp towel. (Keep the phyllo covered with a towel as you work.) Very lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with melted butter. Lay one piece of phyllo in the bottom of the pan, then very lightly brush the phyllo with butter. Repeat this until you have 6 layers; do not butter the top of the last layer.
- Scatter the nut/chocolate mixture evenly over the pastry. Top with the remaining pastry, repeating the technique of layering and buttering as described above. Butter the top of the last piece. Use a sharp knife to cut into 9 squares (3 x 3) and then cut each square in half diagonally into two triangles.
- Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
- For the Syrup: After the pastry has cooled, prepare the syrup. Place the sugar, water, honey and espresso powder in a saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, swirling the pan once or twice, making sure the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling quite readily. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes until the syrup just begins to visibly thicken. Take off heat, add liqueur and swirl pan to incorporate. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the pastry, concentrating along the cut lines and edges. Allow the pastry to sit and absorb the syrup for at least 4 hours. Store in the pan at room temperature, covered with aluminum foil, for up to 3 days.
- Here are a few tips for cutting the pastry: If the top layers of phyllo are moving around, chill the pastry briefly. The butter will solidify and eliminate that problem. Also, you might have to place one hand on the top of the pastry to brace it as you cut; take care not to press down and compress the pastry. We use a small, thin, serrated knife. Use a gentle sawing motion and it will go smoothly.
- Make sure to allow the full 4 hours for the syrup to be absorbed by the pastry. It is a key step in this baklava recipe to endure the waiting period. Be patient and you will be rewarded with sticky, sweet, yet still crispy baklava.