Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nut-Free Baklava

Yes, nut free baklava is possible! The filling for this decadent flaky pastry is a mix of nut free granola, sunflower seeds and buckwheat kernels pulsed with raw honey and spices, while the syrup is honey and sugar with a splash of rose and orange flower water. Rolled, rather than stacked phyllo ensures the filling stays put and slicing is easier too!


Baklava is a definite crowd pleaser - I honestly don't know a single person who truly abhors the sweet, sticky, flaky pastry once they've tried it! Since my grade 7/8 class at work was putting on Mamma Mia! as their school play, they asked if I could make the dessert option for their refreshment table. Of course, I agreed, and the subject of baklava came up. However, there was a big, glaring "BUT" in this plan. As per school policy, there could be no nuts involved.

Not to toot my own horn (okay, kinda to toot my own horn), this challenge didn't faze me at all. While the previous Home Economics teacher had mentioned that there was "no way" the dessert could be made without nuts, I have had previous experience in doing just that. I took the same principles and adapted them to a more traditional baklava application (involving the syrup component). To save on mess and make for a somewhat neater presentation, I rolled the sheets of filled phyllo instead of stacking them, which both ensured an even distribution of filling and an easier cutting job. The rolls also absorbed the syrup a little more thoroughly, creating bites of pastry that were sweet without being wet-wipe sticky.

Now, I will not say this is a "quick" dessert. I made it the morning before it needed to go into the school so it had a full 24 hours to absorb the syrup, but all told it took about 1 1/2 hours to put together from start to finish. Do make the syrup first - it needs to cool to room temperature and this way it stays out of the way! Any leftover filling and phyllo can be made into "muffin tin" baklava snails (my mom loved those as her "treat" and they also gave my fiance a chance to taste the dessert for the first time), and the filling can also be frozen and used as a mix-in for bread or cake filling. Make no mistake, the next time I get a chance, this is going to be back on the dessert table.

Nut-Free Baklava
Makes ~56 pieces

Syrup:
1 cup sugar 

3 tbsp dark honey (I like a combination of wildflower and buckwheat)
1 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp orange flower water 

½ tsp rosewater

Filling:
2 cups nut free granola
½ cup kasha (toasted buckwheat)
½ cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dark honey (I like a combination of wildflower and buckwheat)
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice

Assembly:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup canola oil
1 lb phyllo dough, thawed and trimmed to the width of the pan

Syrup:
  1. In a small pot over medium high heat, combine the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Filling:
  1. In a food processor, combine the filling ingredients, processing in pulses until very finely chopped (almost ground).
Assembly:
  1. Heat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 9x13” pan, set aside.
  2. Mix together the butter and oil, set aside.
  3. On a dry, flat surface, lay out a sheet of phyllo dough and brush with the butter mixture (keep remaining sheets covered with a clean, dry towel). Place a second layer of phyllo on top and brush with the butter mixture.
  4. Spoon some of the filling in a line ½ inch from one short (pan width) edge
  5. Beginning with the filled edge, roll up the phyllo tightly and transfer to the pan.
  6. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. You should have 7-8 rolls in the pan in a single layer.
  7. Brush the tops of the rolls with the butter mixture, then use a knife to score the rolls diagonally (no need to cut all the way through).
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Immediately after removing from the oven, brush the baklava heavily with the syrup (use it all).
  10. Let stand 12 hours, then finish slicing and serve.