Well it was really hard to decide what would be my first recipe to share with you. So I decided to begin where most people would like to begin their meal and that is with Dessert of course! There are two things I have realized growing up Greek and becoming a Chef. First, I have found that young and old all over the Country have tasted or at least heard of Baklava. The second thing is 90% of the people I have met tell me that they would never attempt to make it because it is so difficult. I am here to show you just how simple and easy it is to make and your family and friends will truly be impressed. Here is a picture of my Grandmother’s Classic Baklava!
Looks yummy, but it’s not finished, Classic Baklava gets a wonderful Honey Syrup on it that is also a family recipe and is used on both the Choclava and Classic Baklava.
I have never been a sweet girl (lovingly sweet yes) but not dessert sweet!! My mother on the other hand only wanted to eat sweets and growing up she was easily persuaded into getting my sisters that ice cream cone before dinner (confession I may have indulged a bit as a child). Yet, most of my life I have been a meat and potatoes girl with a gourmet alter ego and this has not changed since I was a little girl. Well it so happens that my Mother’s sweet tooth lives on… hope this doesn’t sound creepy, but as soon as my mother passed away I inherited her sweet tooth. Don’t get me wrong, I am still the meat and potatoes girl with the gourmet alter ego, but now I crave sweets too! And guess what became one of my favorite desserts, that’s right…Baklava and Choclava!
This is not a blessing, for if you ask anyone that knows me; I can eat any man (or Beast) under the table. I have been able to do it for the last 40 years and still maintain my girlish figure. Don’t envy me yet, because as soon as I inherited my Mom’s sweet tooth 12 years ago, I also inherited the extra pounds! Luckily, I have been able to keep them at bay and I will share with you my secrets for weight balance in future Blogs.
A few tips: when choosing your pans I have two options listed that are my favorite. But I am sure someone’s grandmother or Yia Yia (Greek for grandmother) you know may have a certain pan that is a family heirloom. Every Greek Yia Yia I know is superstitious and if they don’t use their special pan the recipe won’t come out right and if the recipe does not come out right no doubt it is the reason that she hit the car in front of her leaving the market. It would have nothing to do with the fact that she is 90, still on the road and forgot her glasses that day, ha,ha!
With that said I would never judge or question your pan choice. If you are not superstitious and you are traveling with your Baklava, I love the disposable pans that come in a 3pack size 121/4×81/4 EZ-Foil. They are light, disposable and you just throw them away!!! Yes this is about clean up too, for that oweey gooey deliciousness can be one sticky mess. This recipe makes two pans and if you are only serving one pan and you freeze the other using the disposable you will not tie up one of your glass or metal baking pans.
Now lets get back to my Ameri-Greek version… Choclava!
A few tips and misconceptions I have learned as a Greek girl growing up watching and learning from my mother and grandmother to my professional learning as a trained chef!
First, Clarified Butter: I don’t care what other recipes may say, for this dessert and many others, the foam that rises to the top will burn first, leaving an uneven finish and it is the top layer only that matters. No need to spend time skimming off the foam from the top of melted butter, just make sure as you are buttering each layer you don’t plunge your pastry brush down to the bottom of butter remixing the clarified and foam/fat from top. Gently scoop up the foam/fat first with your brush repeat with each layer that you butter. By the time you reach the last top layer to butter, your butter will be clarified leaving no fat deposit on that beautiful top layer.
A second tip: if you are using one of the new silicone spatulas and not an old paint brush like my grandmother used ( I think she may have painted a lamp with it as well, just kidding) then you need to be aware of a few things. First do not buy a silicone pastry brush if it does not have a center solid piece inside the bristles, it sort of looks like a piece of Swiss cheese. It is so important for the brushes that are just the silicone to have that piece. If not, they do not hold the butter or egg wash on them, it slides right off. That piece helps to hold on your butter/egg wash and works great. Nylon is not quite as bad, but I do not recommend them. Now if you still prefer the natural boar Bristles that is fine, just make sure you wash them really well after each use!
Last few tips and then on to the recipe. You will see that I mention fresh Grated nutmeg and Roasted Saigon Cinnamon in the recipe. I truly believe it makes a difference in your baking. First Saigon Cinnamon is also known as Vietnamese Cinnamon. It is considered to have superior flavor and odor than regular cinnamon.
McCormick does not endorse me, however I do prefer their spices to all others. I have a friend that worked for McCormick and he milled the spices.
McCormick Classics are a product of the first milling. They are the best of the best! Be careful of the dollar version, they are usually made of what was rejected during the milling process. The bonus is the nutritional benefits from these spices, especially cinnamon! I also grate fresh Nutmeg and use the Saigon Cinnamon in my double Latte I make every morning; it’s like Starbucks in my Kitchen everyday. Delicious!
Choclava Recipe with a Nutella Drizzle
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 60 min
Yield: 2 pans with approx. 25 delectable pieces in each pan
- 1 box phyllo (fillo) dough (Athens 9”x14” sheets/ 2rolls /20 sheets in each)
- 3 sticks of butter
- 1 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 1 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 cups chopped hazelnuts
- 10 oz bag good dark chocolate chips ( I love Ghirardelli brand)
- 1 tbsp. McCormick roasted saigon cinnamon
- 1 teasp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teasp. salt
- 1 1/2 cup sugar (sugar in the raw preferred)
- 1 cup honey
- 2 cups,sugar in raw or white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 orange ( quartered & squeeze juice in syrup over strainer, then drop orange in pot )
- 2 cinnamon sticks broken
- 2 cup powdered sugar
- 4 tbsp Nutella
- 6-8 teasp. milk
- ½ teasp. vanilla
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
Take your 3 bags of Diamond Nuts and Put in your Cuisinart, Pulse 10-12 times until semi fine. Place nuts on a cookie sheet that is sprayed with butter Pam, spread nuts evenly across. Spray again with Pam and bake until fragrant about 20 minutes.
Then turn oven down to 300 degrees.
Scrape nut into a mixing bowl, you do not have to let cool. Scoop One cup out of bowl and put back in Cuisinart. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pulse another 10-12 times until fine. Scrape every bit of nut/sugar mixture out of Cuisinart back into bowl with other nuts. Stir well.
Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Unroll one package of fillo dough, place on a dry surface. (I like to take the wax paper that is wrapped around the fillo and lay it on top, then cover with a damp towel, this way if your damp is a little to damp, the wax paper will protect the dough from getting wet).
Take a 10×15 glass pan or the 3pack of disposable 81/4 x121/4 pans. Butter the bottom and sides with a pastry brush, start with one piece of fillo and brush with butter and follow with 7 more pieces. Top with 1 ¾ cups of the nut mixture and spread evenly to ends of pan. Then take a heaping 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and sprinkle evenly over nuts. Repeat with 5 more sheets of fillo, buttering each piece. Then repeat with another 1 ¾ cups of nuts and 1/3 heaping chocolate chips.
Top with remaining fillo sheets, buttering each sheet well and to the ends of pan.
Score the top with a very sharp knife, using the tip cut on a diagonal, from one side to the other. Turn pan half way and cut again on the diagonal to create triangle, you can even make them square if you want, that is perfectly fine. If you have any left over butter, just pour it on top and brush it evenly all over the top. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 60 minutes until golden brown.
While the Choclava is baking place the honey, the broken cinnamon stick and the ½ orange with juice, the sugar and the water in a saucepan, stir well and bring to a light simmer. Allow it to simmer the entire time Choclava is baking.
Next mix the Nutella, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Another Tip: Place in a pastry bag or a Ziploc sandwich bag in a standard bar glass, spread bag over edges of glass to make it a holder. Fill the Ziploc with the Nutellea mixture, bring the ends of bag up and squeeze mixture into one corner of bag. Cut a small slit in the corner , place back in the glass and put in the frig. Unless of course by now you have made yourself a strong drink for all your hard work!!!
Just a few extra notes: remember this is the same exact recipe for my grandmother Classic Baklava. Just omit the chocolate chips and the Nutella glaze. Everything else is the same.
Also, my grandmother told me to always make sure when you put the syrup on the baklava you have two choice. In order for it to come out perfect, you need to put the Hot syrup on the Cooled Baklava OR put the Cooled syrup on the Hot Baklava. This will leave it moist in the middle and the fillo will not get soggy.
The best news… if it all gets soggy or you forget a step, it still will taste amazing!
When the Baklava has cooled down, pour the hot syrup all over both pans. Let sit for 30 min to absorb the syrup, cover and keep at room temp until ready to serve.
Cut each piece through to bottom of pan and place each piece on serving platter. Drizzle the Nutella glaze over each piece and you have instant heaven. What could be better than flaky crust, toasted nuts, honey syrup and chocolate… Ooh LaLa!
Just have fun with this recipe, don’t worry if the fillo breaks or cracks, just piece it together it’s very forgiving. Feel free to change some things, add some things if you like. You can make, the syrup and glaze and keep in fridge for weeks, you can also freeze the Choclava before you put syrup and glaze on it, then pull it out when you have company or need to take that special dessert to impress all of your baker friends. No doubt, everyone will be in awe of your dessert and you!!!
This is my very first recipe post so it can only get better from here. I have so many things in our Kitchen of Life to share with all of you so please come back!
It’s a piece of Cake to make… or baklava now!