Receiving submissions like this week’s Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava from L.A.-based photographer Rick Poon is one of the greatest satisfactions I have from editing the In the Kitchen With column. Rick not only has great recipes, his images are almost as good as eating the food! (without the calories). This travel-inspired recipe should be in your collection of recipes for grand finales. It’s that good! -Kristina
About Rick: Rick Poon is a software developer/designer/photographer living in Los Angeles, CA. When he’s not writing code, Rick is out and about or in his kitchen trying to photograph that next beautiful dish. He’s been shooting food as long as he can remember, and enjoys getting lost in a new city, immersing himself in the local culture and tucking into some good eats. He chronicles his culinary journeys on his blog, à la mode.
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Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava with Cardamom Honey Syrup
for conversions to metric units, we use this conversion calculator.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods, cracked with the side of a knife
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp rosewater, optional
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, clarified
1 lb phyllo dough, defrosted (see note)
9 oz (approximately 2 cups) hazelnuts
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 1/4 oz (1 1/2 bars) dark bittersweet chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Make sure you have enough phyllo for the size baking pan you plan on using, and give the dough ample time to defrost before working. Look at the number of sheets in each box, and the dimensions to determine if you will have enough sheets to cover your pan. My local market had a 1 lb box of phyllo, 18 sheets, 13 x 17 inches each. cutting the sheets in half would give you 36 – 13 x 8.5 inch sheets, which is plenty for this recipe.
Prepare the honey mixture:
Add sugar, water, honey, and cardamom to a saucepan, simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally until syrup is thick, the consistency of slightly warmed honey (resulting amount should be approximately 1 1/2 cups). Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, zest, and rosewater to taste. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside to cool (refrigerating to speed up the process if necessary). Syrup is key to a good baklava. It should be nice and thick, but still pourable when cold.
Prepare the chocolate-nut mixture:
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven for 15-20 minutes, until the skins have blistered and pulled away slightly; let cool. Put nuts in a large kitchen towel, gather up the edges of the towel to form a sack and rub until skins fall off. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until coarse. Don’t overdo it or the nuts will get pasty. We don’t want that. Combine nuts, chopped chocolate, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
For clarified butter, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts foaming. Carefully skim off foam from the top and discard. Strain clarified butter through cheesecloth and discard remaining solids.
Assemble the baklava:
Brush a 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with clarified butter. Pre-cut phyllo sheets to fit pan snugly and cover with a damp tea towel. Layer 8 sheets in pan, brushing butter between each layer. Sprinkle a thin layer of the chocolate-nut mixture over the top. Layer and butter another 4 sheets. Repeat the nut-phyllo process 2 more times. Spread the last layer of chocolate-nut mixture on top, then follow with 8 sheets of buttered phyllo. The total should be 28 sheets of phyllo, with 4 layers of the chocolate-nut mixture in between.
Carefully cut the baklava into squares or diagonally for diamond shaped pieces, being careful not to shift the sheets while cutting. Bake the baklava in the same 350° oven for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325° and continue to bake for another 30-35 minutes, loosely covering with foil if the top starts to brown too much. The top layer of phyllo should be lightly golden, but not too crispy or else it will lose some of that characteristic chewiness.
Remove pan from oven and pour syrup evenly into all cracks and cut lines. Set aside to cool at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or overnight if possible. Serve at room temperature or warm slightly if desired, or better yet, à la mode!
Why I chose this recipe:
After an incredible week in exotic Istanbul, I was completely enamored of everything Turkish; the city, the people, and especially the food. On one of our last days in this wonderful city, we sampled some amazing baklava from the famous Baklavacı Güllüoğlu. They had seemingly dozens of different varieties, but the one I was drawn to the most was their chocolate baklava. Thin sheets of chocolate phyllo, layered with nuts and chocolate. Crisp, chewy, sticky, decadent. I was smitten. So here’s my twist on that memorable dish, a chocolate hazelnut baklava drizzled with cardamom honey.