Happy New Year, friends! We’re starting off 2015 with something very rich, chocolate-y, buttery, sticky, sweet, and spiked with bourbon.
Let’s say that again: rich, chocolate-y, buttery, sticky, sweet, and spiked with bourbon.
Is there a better way to welcome in the new year?
If you answered, “how about by being healthy and eating healthy stuff?” then please check out the Featured Recipes on the right hand rail of this blog, and stay tuned for next week’s post.
If you answered, “YES! Let’s eat this and celebrate and be deliriously happy because life is short and O.M.G. chocolate baklava?!?!” then we have three scenarios: 1) we are real life friends, 2) we are internet friends, 3) we are soul mates. Please read on.
I made this Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava for my Supper Club girls last month. We had a Middle Eastern themed potluck for our holiday dinner, and (surprise) I volunteered to bring dessert. I had a few cookies in mind and several recipes pinned (we even have a group board for it) but I decided to go with something close to my heart: chocolate. And butter. And a teeny bit of alcohol.
As you guys know, I like desserts laced with alcohol (hello Double Chocolate Cookies with Boozy Cherries, Chocolate Rum and Dulce de Leche Pie, and Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pies). This baklava doesn’t immediately taste like bourbon, because the bourbon is mixed in with the honey, and I use just a small amount for the entire batch. But the bourbon definitely adds a little more warmth and depth to each bite.
I loved toasting the hazelnuts and actually enjoyed rubbing off the skins – they blister after you toast the nuts in the oven. I used Turkish honey from Trader Joe’s but you can use any kind of honey. I also added some orange blossom water to the honey bourbon mixture for a little more exotic flavor and scent. I always think of Seville, Spain when I hear orange blossoms, but orange blossom water is also a common ingredient in Middle Eastern desserts. Last but not least, it was my first time using frozen phyllo dough and I have to say that it was as easy as using frozen puff pastry – sure, it was a little more delicate, but with this recipe, it didn’t matter if the sheets tore a little or weren’t aligned with precision.
Even though this chocolate baklava isn’t very traditional or common, it was a lovely ending to our Middle East feast. Check out some of the other dishes we ate that night:
We had Moroccan couscous, harissa roasted carrots with yogurt, dukkah chicken, and shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce) with lamb meatballs (!). Plus shirazi (cucumber salad) and more bottles of wine than the dinner party attendees. We also had some killer appetizers: whipped feta, spicy labne, olives, dates, apricots, cheese, pita chips, sesame chips, ful medames (an Egyptian dish of cooked fava beans and hard boiled eggs) and a delicious gyro dip. That’s right, a dip that tastes just like a gyro – the recipe is from my friend Dan over at The Food in My Beard.
You can only imagine that by the time we were ready for dessert and tea (spiked or not), we were all very happy. This Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava was the perfect ending to a nice dinner with some of my favorite gals. It’s a little slice of heaven.
I first had chocolate baklava at Sofra, a delightful little Middle Eastern cafe here in Boston, and the recipe I used is based on their version. The recipe below has a lot of steps, but don’t be intimidated! This was actually a very easy dessert to make. I just tried to write down all the details and be as specific as possible. The most important thing to remember is that you have to let the baklava rest and soak in the honey for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava with Orange Blossom Bourbon Honey
Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
1 lb box frozen phyllo dough
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used a mix of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and bittersweet)
Orange Bourbon Honey
1 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup bourbon
- Defrost the phyllo dough according to package directions.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Toast nuts first. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes or until the skins are blistered. Let cool and rub off the skins using a kitchen towel or your fingers. Coarsely chop and set aside.
- Make the baklava. Generously butter a 9x13 baking pan (I used a glass pyrex dish, lined with aluminum foil). To make the crust or the base, take two sheets of phyllo and place on baking pan. Generously butter tops and place two more sheets of pyllo on top. Repeat. You'll end up with a total of 6 sheets for the base, with butter in between every 2 sheets.
- Combine chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips in a bowl. This is the filling. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the nuts and chocolate on top of the phyllo layers. Take two sheets of phyllo and place on top of hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Generously butter tops. Sprinkle another third of the filling. Repeat. You'll end up with three layers of filling.
- The top crust is similar to the base. Take two sheets of phyllo and place over the last layer of filling. Generously butter tops and place two more sheets of pyllo on top. Repeat. You'll end up with a total of 6 sheets for the top crust, with butter in between every 2 sheets. Butter the top of the last phyllo sheets as well.
- Using a sharp knife, make 8 squares, then slice each square diagonally and you'll end up with 16 large triangles. This is what I originally did but in hindsight I suggest further slicing each triangle into two, so you'll end up with 32 smaller triangles (closer in size to the traditional baklava pieces you'll see in Middle Easter/Mediterranean restaurants).
- Bake the baklava for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 300 F and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Remove baklava from oven and go over your slice marks and re-slice.
- Make the orange blossom bourbon honey. In a small saucepan, bring the honey, water, and orange zest into a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add orange blossom water and bourbon and remove from heat. Stir well.
- Ladle honey mixture over the baklava and let stand and cool completely, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
If you don't have orange blossom water, just omit and add another teaspoon of orange zest.
If you don't like bourbon, you can replace with rum or brandy. If you would prefer to keep this alcohol free, just omit and increase water by a quarter cup.
Remember to let the baklava rest and soak in the honey mixture for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Do you have any favorite Middle Eastern recipes? I’d like to try more this year!