November 17th is National Baklava Day.
Unless you have the touch for working with phyllo dough, baklava can be a chore to make.
Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky, of Bittersweet Blog, has a suggestion.
Here, from Hannah Kaminsky’s new book, Sweet Vegan Treats (photo #4), is a novel Baklava Tart (photo #1).
Hannah created the recipe as a way to use up remnants of phyllo after a little pastry mishap.
Here, the phyllo is merely crumbled over the top; no careful layering is necessary to produce an impressive dessert.
The amount of phyllo sprinkled on top is very imprecise, allowing a lot of wiggle room to use however much you want.
In fact, instead of a package of phyllo, you can purchase the mini frozen shells (photo #3) and only crush up as many as necessary.
Here’s the history of baklava and a recipe to make conventional baklava (photo #2).
Hannah created this as a vegan recipe, but you can make it conventional by substituting the vegan butter and cream cheese for regular, and can substitute honey for the agave nectar.
Editor’s Note: When in Greece, you can enjoy baklava made with honey instead of sugar syrup. The baklava has a soul-satisfying honey flavor.
In the U.S., most bakers substitute the less expensive sugar syrup for the honey. The result: The baklava tastes sweet, not honey-licious.
We also prefer our baklava to be made with pistachios (authentic Greek), not walnuts.
By the way, the original version of baklava, called gastrin—used honey, and olive oil instead of butter. Here’s the recipe and a photo that shows how similar the recipes are.
For yourself or a vegan friend, check out Hannah’s latest book, check out Sweet Vegan Treats. It has 90 recipes, each as scrumptious as this one.
An impetus to buy it: November is National Vegan Month.
For The Crust
1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease a 13×4-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don’t have one, you can use a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom, but your cut shapes will be triangles rather than rectangles.
2. MAKE the crust: Blend together the cream cheese and both sugars in a stand mixer, creaming until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, lemon and agave or maple syrup.
3. ADD in 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt, and mix until fully incorporated. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Press the resulting mixture into the tart pan, bringing it evenly and smoothly up the sides. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, creating vents for steam to escape and preventing big bubbles from getting trapped inside.
4. BAKE for 15 to 17 minutes, until lightly golden brown in color. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the heat on.
5. STIR together in a medium bowl the walnut pieces, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pour the melted butter or coconut oil over everything in the bowl, stirring to coat.
6. GENTLY PRESS the nut mixture into the crust so that it fits in an even layer. Crumble enough phyllo over the top to cover the nuts completely. Return the pan to the oven, and bake for an additional 20 to 22 minutes, until the phyllo becomes nicely browned.
7. REMOVE the tart from the oven. Melt the final measure of butter for the glaze in a small bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and pour the mixture evenly over the top of the tart while it is still warm. This will help bind everything together and sweeten the tart a bit more.
8. COOL for at least two hours before slicing.