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The Best Baklava

*updated post*

This is for all my Baklava lovers, you know who you are. 

Many of you don’t know this, but this was the second blog post I ever published, and one of the main reasons I started my blog in the first place! I had no idea how to start and where to begin (clearly based on the terrible setup, pictures, and content- wow you guys really put up with me hehe). BUT I knew I had to start somewhere with this recipe because this Baklava is just… well I don’t say this about all my desserts, but my favorite. If I had to choose one dessert, it would be this baklava…every time. Yup.

Now, I’m really not trying to brag here, people. It’s been a lot of trial and error and attempts at perfecting cause: 1) no, I’m not Greek or Arabic, and 2) this wasn’t a passed down family recipe. It was simply a handful of recipes I found through my endless wonderings on Pinterest mixed with a few extra ingredients of my choice (which I’m guilty of doing to ALL my recipes!) to turn it into the ultimate baklava recipe (oh and I can’t take full credit here, since my mama was a big help in this process too). I really don’t mean to say that the recipes I found weren’t good, they just weren’t up to my standards. What are my standards, you ask? Well, a whole lot of butter, cinnamon, chocolate and that bad-for-you dessert. I’m really not into healthy dessert. To me, its an oxymoron…like jumbo shrimp…it just doesn’t make sense haha. There is a time and a place for healthy, but not when it comes to Baklava. So if this is really not your thing, then I understand. Otherwise just try the recipe already, would you? You can thank me later. 😉

Ok, now you’re probably wondering how this baklava obsession came into my life, right? Well, it all started when a group of my friends and I would regularly eat at this local, shabby, Greek restaurant near our high school (yes, this dates back to high school). It eventually became a common place for us to dine, because we loved the authentic food and desserts. That was when I discovered baklava. I honestly never tried it before and I was torn. 17 years of living on God’s green earth and I never tried such a delicacy? Seriously I lived under a rock. Well, being the ambitious 17-year-old I that I was, I decided to try making baklava. Needless to say, there were many attempts until we (mama and I) finally mastered it. And boy do we feel happy about having a go-to dessert. It’s just the best…end of story.

Now if you’re wondering what makes this baklava so praiseworthy, wonder no more. Pictures will only do so much justice…you need to try it…then you’ll be convinced! It’s simply different than any baklava you’ll have ever tried because it’s SUPER moist, has a layer of chocolate, a rich taste of cinnamon and maple, along with a mixture of pecans and walnuts. It’s pretty untraditional, but not apologizing for that. 😉 I’ve seen/tried many dry, flavorless, and ugly baklavas. Sorry, it’s true, and I’m sure you have too. So I was determined to master a recipe that was the opposite of that…deliciously moist and full of flavour!

If you’re not convinced by now, then read it again, and let’s try this out together! Follow my fail-proof recipe…I [double] dare you…and tell me if I’m wrong! 😉

Happy baking!

Specific baker notes:

  • Follow the steps in order: There are 3 main steps of this baking process in this order; 1) making the nut mixture, 2) arranging the baklava, 3) preparing the syrup. There are a few other major steps that you will have to read in order not to miss too!
  • Phyllo Dough: Many people get a little worried when it comes to working with this dough- but honestly it’s so easy. Just thaw it according to package instructions, and keep it in the fridge until ready to use. You want to make sure the dough is kept cool so that it is easy to work with and does not stick together.
  • Choice of chocolate: I like to make my baklava with dark or semi-sweet chocolate. I find that it works best with balancing the super sweet baklava flavour overall. You can use Nutella, or milk chocolate, it still tastes good, but the original calls for dark/semi-sweet.
  • Brown sugar vs. coconut palm sugar: Honestly you can use either or, but we (my mom and I) found that when we used the palm sugar, it gave off more of a rich and caramel taste; we’ve been using it ever since!
  • Glass dish vs. metal dish: I’m not going to get into the science of these two, but I have to note that baklava is best baked in glass mainly because of the way it transfers heat, and evenly baking the dough throughout, resulting in a crispy finish while maintaining moisture. I have never made it in a metal pan, but if you have no alternatives, go for it…but your results will not be as good, and you’ll have to reduce the baking time based on the size/type pan used.
  • Convection vs. regular oven: Honestly, they are mostly the same. Convection ovens circulate the heat throughout oven during baking time to help bake food more evenly, and faster. But don’t fret- a regular oven will do the exact same job, just in a slightly different process and/or time. For this recipe, I baked my baklava in a regular oven, for about 30 mins, and it was perfect.
  • The order of layers: Read the recipe over carefully once to get the hang of it- it’s really just 3 steps when it comes to the layers; dough/butter/nut layers, dough/butter/chocolate layer, dough/butter layer. Follow steps below for more details.
  • Syrup: make sure to pour the prepared syrup on the baked baklava immediately after you take it out of the oven. Failure to do so may result in a very watery/mushy baklava.

Follow along with these steps to achieve the perfect outcome!

Prepare your working space; trim your dough, melt butter, and prepare nut mixture.

Order of layers:

It’s really just 3 basic steps when it comes to the layers;

  1. Dough/butter/nut layers (about 7-9), using about 5-6 tbsp nut mixture at a time.
  2. Dough/butter/chocolate layer (1 layer),
  3. Dough/butter layer (about 5-7).
  4. The last layer is just 1 sheet, finishing with a butter top.

Making sure to use 2 sheets of dough at a time, besides the last layer.

Start off by spreading the butter along the sides and bottom of the dish, then begin with the layers (school down for full recipe).

Once nut mixture is done, melt chocolate and add the chocolate layer.

Continue with the dough/butter layers until you run out. Use only 1 sheet of dough for the last layer. Then cut into pieces before placing in oven. Begin preparing your syrup.

Place in oven, and voi-la! Dont forget to pour over the syrup immediately after taking it out of the oven. Then, garnish!


 

The Best Baklava

Ingredients

    For the Baklava:
  • 1 pkg of phyllo dough, thawed according to package instructions
  • 1 1/2 cup butter (3 sticks butter), melted
  • 1/2 cup dark/semi-sweet chocolate
  • Chopped walnuts or chocolate, for garnish
  • For the Nut Mixture:
  • 1 cup walnuts, ground
  • 1 cup pecans, ground
  • 1/4 cup almonds, ground (or any of your choice)
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup of coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the Syrup
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I like to use raw sugar)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

    Preparation: Follow these steps carefully to achieve the best Baklava!
  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Make sure dough is fully thawed and still cold (see notes).
  2. Depending on the glass dish or dough you buy, you will have to adjust the dough sheets based on what you use. Simply take one sheet, measure it in your glass-dish, and cut (I like to use kitchen scissors) the remaining dough according to the size of your dish. Set aside.
  3. Prepare nut mixture; place walnuts, and pecans in a food processor until ground, then add the coconut palm sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and mix until combined. Set aside.
  4. Next, melt the butter in a sauce pan until liquidized. Set aside.
  5. Measure chocolate, and place in a microwave dish; set aside until ready to use.
  6. Making the Baklava:
  7. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch glass-baking dish.
  8. Layer 2 sheets at a time in the baking dish, brushing the top sheet (of the 2 just added) with melted butter, and 5-6 tbsp of nut mixture before adding the next 2 sheets. Repeat this process until you run out of the nut mixture (a standard pkg go phyllo dough will yield about 8 layers of the butter/nut layers; see note for more details).
  9. Once the nut mixture is done, melt chocolate in microwave (at 20 second intervals until melted). Continue to add 2 sheets of phyllo dough again, butter the top sheet, and add the melted chocolate to 1 layer during this process.
  10. Finally, layer the remaining sheets, placing 2 sheets at a time, and brushing the top sheet with melted butter before adding the next 2 sheets. Repeat until complete (approx. 5-7 layers).
  11. For the last layer, place only 1 sheet, and butter the top.
  12. Next, using a very sharp knife cut carefully into the baklava to make strips, to your preference.
  13. Bake at 350 F for about 30-40 minutes OR until top is golden/crispy (time may vary with each oven see note).
  14. Prepare Syrup:
  15. While is baklava, immediately start making the syrup.
  16. Add water and sugar, whisk and bring to boil over medium-heat.
  17. Next, add the maple syrup, honey, vanilla, lemon and keep on medium heat until it comes to slight boil.
  18. Now turn it to low heat and let it simmer until baklava is done baking, mixing occasionally.
  19. Immediately after taking the baklava out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the baklava, and garnish.
  20. Let baklava cool off about 2-3 hours.
  21. Do not store in fridge, cover and store at room temperature up to a week.
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http://www.ohlafemme.com/2016/07/14/baklava/

 

 

Pumpkin Banana Chocolate Bread (Gluten/Dairy Free + Vegan)

I know. The title sounds so overwhelming and too “healthy” for a dessert. Or the title could be totally deceiving and this is just another bland, dry, weird tasting gluten/dairy free and vegan dessert… but it’s not, I promise. I definitely wouldn’t be sharing it if it wasn’t up to OH LA FEMME standards. Common, you guys should know me by now, riiiiight? I always post bad-for-you desserts with no regrets (like my Baklava and Chocolate Salted Pecan Cake, for example). But it’s the new year, new goals, and I really wanted to limit my sugar intake, while satisfying my baking (at least once a week) obsession. Also, I have a few friends that are on strict diets or have intolerances and I love to be a good host and cater to them too…cause I’m the do-it-all-wifey. 😉

Anyways, I was on the lookout for a free-of-everything recipe for months. I tried several cookie recipes (flop), a couple cakes that tasted really weird, and got sooo frustrated with the endless ingredient list that I needed to buy in order to make one recipe (it was so annoying and not to mention, expensive too). So I gave up on buying gluten-free flours, xanthan gum, and agave — they just weren’t making me happy. I simply wanted a recipe that suited what I had in my pantry, and of course, one that tasted normal. Is that too much to ask for? Well, if you’ve tried g/f, d/f vegan recipes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And then I came across a recipe. I made it, changed it up to my preference (cause that’s just my style), and bam. This gluten/dairy free, vegan, paleo- whatever you wanna call it, was incredible! And the best part? It tastes just as good as a bad-for-you dessert. I was so happy! My husband didn’t even know and was impressed too. And let me tell you, he isn’t usually a fan of “healthy” desserts. And I don’t blame him, but the fact that he said he couldn’t even notice, was kind of a big deal.

So now I have this awesome go-to dessert for those days when I need a sugar fix (without the regrets) and catering to a variety of my crowds. Everybody wins, and tummies are happy. 🙂

If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. 😉

Recipe Notes:

  • Oat flour: you can buy oat flour, or you can prepare it yourself simply using a food processor to ground your oats. Just make sure it’s as ground as possible for the best outcome.
  • Flax egg: this is a substitute for eggs. By combining water to ground flax and letting it sit, allows it to create a “gel” texture which resembles an egg yolk. This really helps in adding moisture and texture to the batter. It’s a genius substitute!

Pumpkin Banana Chocolate Bread (Gluten/Dairy Free + Vegan)

Ingredients

  • 1 can 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons water, mix, set for 5 mins)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten free oat flour (you can ground your oats with a processor too)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 soft banana
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • top with walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with greased parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Add the wet ingredients to a large bowl: pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, sugar, flax egg, and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. In the same bowl, add the dry ingredients: oat flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together, making sure no flour patches remain.
  4. Then add the mashed banana and chocolate chips, and mix until just incorporated, don't over mix.
  5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and spread into an even layer and top with our choice of nuts/seeds.
  6. Bake for 50-65 minutes, you can check for doneness with a toothpick or butter knife.
  7. Allow to cool before lifting it out of the loaf pan (about 1-2 hours).
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http://www.ohlafemme.com/2018/01/29/pumpkin-banana-chocolate-bread-glutendairy-free-vegan/

Have a wonderful Monday!

XO I.P.

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking

I can’t believe Christmas is so soon! Is anyone else excited?!

I was inspired to create this baking series because of the joy of baking sweet and pretty things, my obsession with delicious desserts, and sharing recipes that I know many will love. After all, sharing is caring. 🙂

Growing up, Christmas time was always a busy season for us. With all the choir recitals, Christmas parties, gift shopping, holiday rush and baking, made this time of year filled with anticipation and excitement. Not much has changed for me now, even though I am miles away from my family and living in California, I still find myself busy as ever.

Ever since I was young, I can remember my mom busily preparing and baking for family get-togethers, and giving away trays of desserts. I loved watching, and helping when I could. Baking was always popular in my family, and I’m happy to have had the passion for baking passed on to me. It can be very therapeutic at times. 🙂

I have gathered these recipes that have reminded me of Christmas over the years, or traditional desserts that I thought you might love for this holiday. Also, desserts make great and affordable gifts for anyone. I find that they mean a lot more as gifts, knowing that effort and the time was put into making them, simply to be enjoyed!

So follow along, even though it’s a busy time of year, and share your favourite recipes with others too (or you can pin them on Pinterest!).

Here is the list of the 12 Days of Christmas Baking desserts:

(click on the links for the recipe)

Day 1: Vanilla-Almond White Chocolate Biscotti

Day 2: Russian Beze with Caramelized Condensed Milk

Day 3Sugar Cookies with Royal Decorating Frosting

Day 4: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Day 5: Traditional Moldavian Condensed Milk Wafers

Day 6: White Chocolate-Apricot Cheesecake Cupcakes with Apricot Frosting

Day 7: White Chocolate Red Velvet Fudge

Day 8: Cranberry Lemon Almond Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Day 9: Puff Pastry Nutella Filled Doughnuts

Day 10: Ferro Rocher Truffles

Day 11: Traditional Moldavian Plakea (Rice Pudding)

Day 12: Overnight Baked French Toast

Or if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, what about my favorite recipe of all time… Baklava!

Happy baking everyone! 🙂

XOX I.P.