What I Baked for Christmas, Part Two: Apple Maple Baklava

This baklava is a cross between an apple pie and baklava, with layers of flaky phyllo pastry, pecans, and diced apples, soaked in maple syrup.

Recipe Source

Baklava has become a Christmas tradition for me ever since I discovered that my mother-in-law loves it. I’ve mostly stuck to the recipe from my Professional Baking textbook, but I do have some variations in my collection (including a bacon baklava I’d like to make someday). There was an apple baklava recipe in my International Baking cookbook, but it used olive oil instead of butter and I wasn’t sure how that would go over. It’s something I’d want to try once before sharing, especially for Christmas. So I looked up “apple baklava” and found one that included another love of mine, maple.

Making baklava can be tedious, and it is time-consuming. You wouldn’t think so, but you’d be surprised how long it takes to layer and butter a bunch of thin little sheets of dough.

I diced the apples up first. I used Granny Smith.
I chopped the nuts in the food processor of course, because of the volume of nuts and to mix it with the spices and sugar.
Melting the butter.
You have to keep the phyllo from drying out by covering the sheets you’re not yet working with with a damp towel. I also put down a layer of plastic wrap to keep the dough from getting too damp from the towel, but since it took two sheets to cover the dough (my plastic wrap isn’t as wide as what we had at school) eventually it got wadded up and I threw it out.
Buttered pan.

Here you can see the first problem: the pan is too small. I’m sure the recipe uses it because a 9×13″ pan is pretty standard and something that most people have at home. But phyllo sheets are larger than that. I had gotten a foil, single-use, deep-dish, 9×13″ lasagna pan, but there were 11×15″ pans that would have worked better.

At first I tried to get it to stick to the sides by buttering the sheets, but they still wanted to flop and slump over, so instead I lined the top and left edge against the bottom edges of the pan. That gave enough length on the other two edges to hang over, and I trimmed them when I was done.

The recipe says to score halfway down through the layers in the pattern you’re going to cut, and doesn’t say to chill first. In school we chilled the baklava to solidify the butter and make it easier to cut through, and then we cut almost all the way through (you have to be careful when using a disposable pan that you don’t poke through, or at the syrup pouring stage you’ll have leakage). I ended up chilling it for over an hour just because I went outside with my son to take advantage of the last nice 50 degree day before a string of days in the 30s and 20s. I think the longer chilling extended the baking time, because it seemed to take forever to get golden brown.

Meanwhile, I prepared the syrup. It wasn’t just a matter of pouring maple syrup on it, though there was a cup of it, the same as the amount of sugar. I went a little overboard and probably used more than the two tablespoons of lemon zest called for because I just zested a whole lemon. It was pretty tasty after steeping in the syrup, so I ate it after straining it out. That’s not weird, right?

Baked and syruped.

Overall Impressions

This tastes like a really nice apple pie with a crust that’s a little flakier and crispier. As the recipe states, this is a softer baklava because of the apples, so texture-wise it wasn’t what I was used to. The person who developed the recipe also decreased the amount of sugar and added lemon juice to balance the flavors and let the apple shine through, so it isn’t as sweet as regular baklava. If you normally steer clear because you find baklava overly sweet, you may enjoy this one, especially if you like apple pie. I liked it, but I wonder if it would be crispier if I used diced dried apples instead of fresh ones.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Use a larger pan to take advantage of the size of the phyllo sheets. Your baklava will not be as thick because you’re spreading the filling out more, though.
  • Chill before cutting, and cut into squares, then triangles.
  • Try using diced, dried apples instead of fresh.

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