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I LOVE baklava. It is so delicious. Seriously. Except when it has too many cloves, like most store bought baklava does. I don’t care for cloves.
A couple years ago I was flipping through one of those annoying advertiser “magazines” that automatically come to your house. I always look for good coupons before tossing them. I was lucky enough to come across this recipe for Cranberry Chocolate Baklava, which I’ve tweaked slightly. Traditional baklava is made with pistachios, I believe, as well as dates. This recipe is the same process but tastes totally different. I love it! I made some yesterday for a party I was hosting.
Now, baklava is made with phyllo (filo) dough. Many people are intimidated by phyllo dough. I am telling you right now, DON’T be! It is really not hard to work with at all! And those flaky layers can’t be duplicated in any other way. I put this together in about 30 minutes, not including baking time. So, give this recipe a try. The cranberries and walnuts are totally Christmas-y. You will love it!
Phyllo dough is not hard to work with but there are 3 important things to remember.
1. Make sure it is fully defrosted. It says you can defrost it right on the counter. Read the box for directions. I left mine in the fridge for 24 hours, then set it on the counter when I started preparing the other ingredients. It was perfect.
2. Keep it covered! The dough is paper thin, so as you might imagine it dries out really fast and will crumble to dust. All you have to do it lay it out on your counter and cover it with a damp kitchen cloth (a clean one, obviously). I usually use a flour sack towel folded in half. Get it wet then ring it out and lay it over your dough. Every time you remove a sheet, you pull the towel back, grab the sheet and place it in your pan, then replace the towel.
3. Have a good pastry brush for brushing it with butter and start with the edges! You start your brushing with the edges because they are more exposed to the air and dry out the most quickly.
So, those are my tips. Now, just follow the recipe. Let me know how you like it!
Chocolate Cranberry Baklava
- 1 16oz. package phyllo dough, thawed
- 1 1/4 cups butter, melted
- 1 lb. walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- zest of one lemon
- good quality cooking spray (optional)
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c honey
- 1/2 c water
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Using a food processor, finely chop your walnuts. This can be done by hand if needed. Place chopped walnuts in a bowl and add sugar, cranberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
Get a half sheet pan (Approx. 15”x10”x1”) and brush it with melted butter. Place one sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan and quickly brush with butter. (The box of phyllo I just bought was different than the phyllo I’ve bought in the past. This one had two packages and the sheets were half as big as normal. Normally, one sheet would cover the whole pan. With this stuff you use two sheets, so you have a seam in the center of the pan, which is fine. You can overlap them slightly. I think they did this to make working with the phyllo a little easier and lessen the chance of tearing.
Now, layer 5 more sheets of phyllo dough (6 total), brushing each one with butter as you go. You don’t have to COMPLETELY cover the phyllo with butter. There will be little parts that don’t get covered, like if you’re painting with a dry paintbrush. That’s ok. Now, to make your life easier, you can spray every other one with cooking spray (like Pam) rather than buttering each one. It works just great and makes things go a little faster.
After you get six sheets down, spread 1/3 of your nut mixture over that layer. Now, add 4 more sheets of phyllo, buttering or spraying each one. Then add another 1/3 of your filling to that layer. Next, four more sheets of phyllo. Add the rest of your filling mixture, then layer on the rest of your phyllo. You should get 6 more full sheets. You can kinda press down each layer before you put on the filling, just to help it fit in the pan better. Once it’s all layered together, you need to use a sharp knife to cut your baklava into diamonds. You do this by cutting squares and then cut the squares in half diagonally. I did 6 squares the long way, and 4 the short. You can do them smaller if you prefer. This is probably the hardest part, especially if you are short on sharp knives. Just go slow and kind hold the phyllo down with your fingers to keep it from moving around. Its ok if you don’t get that bottom layer cut well. You will cut again after it is baked. But this keeps the top from crumbling all up, which it would if you waited to cut it until after baking. Also, trim any excess dough from the edges so it is not hanging over the pan. After it is cut, drizzle any remaining butter over the top.
This is cooked, but I wanted to show you how to cut the squares.
Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown.
Meanwhile, clean up your dishes. Then make the syrup. Add all the ingredients to a saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. It will become slightly thicker. When baklava is done, remove from oven and pour syrup over the pan, making sure you get it on each piece. I use a ladle. This is the glue that holds it all together, so use it all! I sprinkled mine with sugar, looking for another texture. If I had had raw sugar I might have used that! Once its cool you can cut it all the way through and serve! Enjoy!