Have you ever tried the chocolate-hazelnut baklava at Oleana or Sofra? It is one of my all-time favorite treats. At Oleana, it comes as a plated dessert with chocolate truffles. At Sofra, you can just pick up a triangle of it to munch on. The baklava consists of layers of flaky, buttery phyllo dough and chocolate-hazelnut filling soaked with a honey-cinnamon syrup. Each bite deserves to be savored, so each flavor can be given its due. I live about a 5-minute walk away from Oleana, so it's a wonder I'm not in there every day ordering some of this baklava for dessert.
When Jen from Beantown Baker suggested that the two of us get together for a baking date and that we each pick one recipe we wanted to try together, the first thing I thought of was this baklava. I was a little fearful about working with phyllo dough since I'd never done it before, and I thought Jen and I could tackle it together.
A couple Saturdays ago, she trekked over bright and early from her end of the green line to mine, while I prepped the baklava filling and syrup and set the phyllo dough out to soften. I soon decided the honey syrup produces one of the best kitchen smells ever.
When Jen arrived, after Gunner lavished her with love and affection, we got to work on the other recipe we decided to make together, and once we were at a good stopping point with that, we assembled the baklava together.
The phyllo, while thin, was not as cumbersome as I expected. We learned to slide our hands under it, lift it carefully, and adjust it quickly once we set it in the pan.
After we layered the phyllo dough, lots of butter, and the filling, Jen carefully cut the baklava while I held a tape measure for guidance. Then we popped it in the oven, poured the syrup over it while it was still hot, and waited for it to cool. It's actually so easy it's dangerous. I can see myself making this any time I need a great party dessert.
I found the recipe for the chocolate-hazelnut baklava on Food & Wine's website, but the note says the recipe is simplified and the original version uses things like cocoa nibs and cinnamon sticks. I couldn't see leaving those out, so I asked my friend Nina, who has done some baking at Sofra, for some tips. I can't see how the baklava would be nearly as flavorful without these additions. (Thank you, Nina!)
Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava (adapted from Food & Wine)
(Print this recipe)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups honey (I only had 1 cup, which worked fine)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
2 cinnamon sticks
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut in pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 lb box of phyllo dough, thawed according to package instructions (you won't use all of it)
1 lb butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, honey, cup of sugar, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon sticks.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking the syrup for 15 minutes.
Cool and strain the syrup, and set it aside at room temp.
While the syrup is cooking, toast the hazelnuts in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking them around on the pan occasionally.
If you couldn't find blanched hazelnuts, rub the hazelnuts with a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins.
Once they are cool, place the hazelnuts in a food processor, and process until well chopped. Dump them into a large bowl.
Add the chocolate and 1/2 cup sugar to the food processor, and process until chocolate is pebbly.
Add this mixture to the bowl with the nuts. Stir in the cinnamon, and set the filling aside.
Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil, and generously butter the foil.
Carefully cut the phyllo dough in half so you have 9-by-13-inch sheets.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan, and brush it with the melted butter.
Repeat until you have 8 layers of buttered phyllo dough in the pan.
Spread 2 cups of filling over the phyllo dough.
Layer 4 more sheets of phyllo dough over the filling, buttering each.
Spread another 2 cups of filling on top.
Layer with another 4 sheets of phyllo, buttering each.
Spread the rest of the filling over the phyllo dough.
Top with another 6 sheets of phyllo, all brushed with butter.
Set the baklava aside for about 30 minutes so the butter can firm up, and then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the baklava into 3-inch squares. You will have 1 inch extra at one end (this strip makes an excellent snack). Then cut each square diagonally, so you get two triangles out of every square.
Bake the baklava for 25 minutes, and then turn it, lower the oven to 325 degrees, and bake it for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, and immediately ladle the room temperature syrup over the baklava.
Let the baklava cool completely, and then use a small spatula to remove the pieces. You may have to go back through with a knife or bench scraper and re-separate the pieces.
Eat the baklava for breakfast, as a mid-day snack, for dessert, or if you're a nice person, share it with friends. You'll make their day.
Jen and I had a fabulous time baking together -- this is no surprise since making delicious baked goods is a huge hobby for both of us. We can't wait to do it again! And we can't wait to tell you about the other recipe made, but unfortunately, we must wait until April to share it with you.
Do you ever have baking or cooking dates with friends?