Baklava – Assembling

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 33,880
    Chef Amy Riolo demonstrates how to assemble baklava.

    Amy Riolo: Hi! I am Amy Riolo. Today, we are making Almond Baklava and we have just finished layering 14 sheets or half of our package of Fillo dough and covering each one with clarified butter and now we are going to spread our filling through the middle and this is our almond, sugar and orange blossom water mixture and it's very easy, you can just spread it anyway you want because in the end we are going to level it out. So you don't have to be too particular with the way you are putting it.

    Almonds are delicious because in the Mediterranean and the Middle East they have their own harvest and they use the fresh almonds when they come out and they do so many different applications with them, making them into almond flour, almond milk and almonds really are full of healthy fat. So they are very good even they say if you just eat five almonds a day, it really does a lot for your health. So, we are just going to spread these to even them and you could even do this with your fingers if you want to but I am just doing it this way and I would like to leave a little bit of ridge around the edges because as we cut it, the almonds are going to come in kind of spread out anyway. So you don't have to go all the way to the edges, you can leave a nice little ridge like this and then we are going to complete our layers of our Fillo dough on top. In this first layer that you put on on top of the almond, it's kind of the most fragile one because you have got that mountain of nuts on the bottom and it kind of just really wants to break up. It looks fine, don't worry about it, just cover it with butter at the best you can as you layer, it will get easier to work with and you can kind of dot and spread with your pastry brush and that makes it easier.

    And there are so many different applications that you can do with Baklava. Basically, in today's vernacular, anything that has Fillo dough and is sweet is referred to as Baklava. You can put Macadamia Nuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Pine nuts, a combination of nuts, dried fruit, anything you want and as long as its got this Fillo dough, it's considered Baklava. One of the things, it's very popular now, is to fill them with cream and you can have different puddings and creams that are used especially. I was working with pastry chefs in Egypt and this is something that they do very often is to fill the Baklava with creams and with custards and they are very very delicious.

    So keep that in mind, if you have someone in your family who is allergic to nuts or if you don't like nuts and you want to do something different, that's a wonderful-wonderful recipe to have on hand and this particular version it's from my first cookbook called 'Arabian Delights' and an upcoming cookbook, I am going to have a chocolate Baklava recipe because that's something that I sampled on a cruise one time, it was absolutely delicious and very simple just to that combination of chocolate and butter and the crunch. It kind of reminds me of when you go to the movies and you eat popcorn with candy and with butter. It's a wonderful wonderful flavor.

    And there are different different combinations that you can do that we wouldn't necessarily think of all the time like, in Egypt one of the things that I found is very popular is to dried coconut with raisins and with with unsalted roasted peanuts. Southern Egypt is homing to a lot of peanuts just like Southern United State so they started putting it in Baklava. You can also do things with dried dates, dried apricots and mix some pine nuts or some walnuts or almonds, pistachios in with those and that tastes absolutely delicious.

    We used about two cups of almonds in this recipe, so as long as you use two cups of anything else, you will be fine and remember we added the Orange Blossom Water, but you can change your seasoning or your flavoring also to go with the filling. You are going to do Walnut, a traditional accompaniment to the Walnut Baklava is cinnamon, you can add some cinnamon flavoring in with that. If you are going to do Macadamia Nut maybe you could add a little bit of a vanilla or another kind of a flavor. Cardamom is absolutely delicious with Baklava so it's really fun to experiment, try this recipe which is traditional and which is absolutely delicious and then the next time you make it, experiment and do something different and you will really like the flavors and the ability that you have to make the Baklava at your own home.

    Also, you could do many different shapes with Baklava, you can make it in squares, you can make it into circles, you can make it into partials but this way that we are going to do today with the diagonal shapes this is one of the more traditional ways. You will see we have a little broken piece there we are just amending it down so no trouble at all and keep fillings on hand at home and keep them in the refrigerator. Always keep your nuts specially in the refrigerator so that they don't turn rancid but you can make the filling a month in advance. Keep it in your refrigerator and then whenever you are ready with the Fillo dough, go ahead and make your Baklava. It doesn't have to be an all day production and it doesn't have to something that you have to wait once a year because you don't have enough time just plan ahead and get your syrup and your filling ready and you will see how easy it is to be able to make Baklava more often.

    People also always ask me if they can use oil instead of butter and you can. You definitely, it works fine with the Fillo Dough. It's not a traditional butter flavor but it does work absolutely fine, there is nothing wrong with it. It would just give you a different flavor. And now we are going to just continue layering this butter. We have really for the top layer we want to make sure we get nice and even. So, there is our top layer and now what we are going to do is cut the Baklava.

    So, we have a long sharp knife and we are going to make diagonal, so we are going to start cutting. We are going to cut all the way down this way. If you have a ruler or you are very particular about the size, you can actually space them evenly apart, I am not. I am just going to do them all the way going down this way and then we are going to make regular cuts, going down this way, to make our diamond shaped Baklava.

    So, what we will do is we will start and you have to hold down and press as you go because if you push or you don't hold down the Fillo dough will kind of turn over itself and that's not something that you want. So what we want is just to go straight across this way and continue to go all the way over and as you cut through, you can see why is it important to get the mixture nice and fine because if you had something which was sticking out like a large piece of almond or the mixture wasn't consistent with itself then would become very difficult to cut through and to bite and that's not what we are looking for in this recipe.

    So, that's going this way and now we are just going to cut down from the top to make our diagonal shapes going down and probably do about five cuts going across and once we do this we can just put it into our oven and it will be ready to bake and if a sheet comes up on you, you can just push it back down this way and go down and slowly continue to cut and place your Fillo dough back on top. The slower that you do this, the more success that you will have and the easier it will be for you because you have more control with a knife. So we will continue cutting, we will end up with about 40 pieces and when we come come back we will place our Baklava into the oven and bake it.