This week it was Baklava. I was looking forward to making this as I'd wanted to make it for a long time and was sure the recipe featured in a number of my vegan cookbooks. I was right but every recipe used shop bought filo pastry which is usually vegan anyway.
I decided that I'd never made filo pastry before and so I would give it a go...a decision I would come to regret!
I halved the recipe as 48 pieces is a lot, and considering the ingredients, expensive if you are experimenting! I used a 25cm tin instead too. The recipe, while it wasn't completely successful for me, it is actually very easy to make vegan. The difficulty I encountered was in the making of the pastry, which as I mentioned, can be bought from most supermarkets instead. So here is the link to the original recipe and method: Paul Hollywood's Baklava - The Great British Bake Off | The Great British Bake Off
For the filo pastry: 500g plain flour 2 tsp baking powder ¼ tsp salt 2 eggs 170g full-fat Greek yogurt 90ml vegetable oil 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing 1 tbsp white wine vinegar 200g cornflour, for sprinkling
Instead of the bake off recipe I searched the internet for recipes and most were 'accidentally vegan'. I followed this one from: Food Wishes Video Recipes: Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough – One Step Away from Baklava
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading (290g when I weighed mine)
5 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cups warm water, about 110F/40C (180ml when I measured mine)
For the starch mixture: 1/2 cup cornstarch 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the syrup: 135g caster sugar 300g runny honey (I used brown rice syrup although agave, maple etc would have worked) 1 large unwaxed lemon, sliced 1 tbsp rosewater
For the filling: 350g walnuts, finely chopped 350g pistachios, finely chopped 50g caster sugar 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 1 tbsp ground cardamom
To assemble: 400g salted butter, melted (I used vegan butter)
To decorate: 75g pistachios, finely ground 2 tsp edible dried rose petals METHOD
To make the pastry I combined all of the pastry ingredients in a bowl and then when together I kneaded on a floured work surface. I continued to sprinkle on flour until it no longer stuck to the surface and then some. I then let it rest for an hour at room temperature. Then I followed the Bake Off Method of dividing into 6 pieces and folding in on itself. This method was supposed to be quicker and easier than the traditional method of lots of rolling out and layering. I did feel the shapes that resulted did not have very defined layers in them but persevered. I did find the pastry very strong and robust at this point. I was able to initially roll thin layers and handle without it breaking. I read that it is the vinegar that helps it to keep its strength.
I rolled out the pastry and lay in between sheets of parchment to keep separate. I think this may have also been another cause of its failure. I rolled them up and kept them in the fridge overnight until the following evening but when I came to work with them again they were stuck to the parchment and were much less robust than the previous night. They tore, they stuck together, it was a nightmare. It was impossible to cut the round circle I needed to layer up in the tin. Each layer was made out of scraps I'd managed to transfer!
The remainder of the method I followed as per the Bake Off recipe.
Tips based on my experience
-I really think everything went well here except for the pastry so my big tip here is, just buy the pastry ready made. It will take no time at all to create if you do this as the other steps in the method were easy.
If you do try to make it from scratch:
-Don't scrimp when putting cornflour on the layers to keep them separate and from sticking.
-Leave in the oven for the full 1 hour. I removed mine after 50 minutes as it seemed done, the top was golden, but the pastry seemed a little ...underbaked. (I can hear Paul Hollywood's voice as I type now!)
-Perhaps follow the traditional method of rolling out the layers rather than the folding technique on the website for a better chance of success. As I mentioned, the layers did not seem very well defined using the folding method.
In Conclusion As I have mentioned I wouldn't call this recipe a complete success. The pastry just wasn't flaky and I really did struggle with it, as you heard. The assembly was a true Bake Off moment. I really felt for the contestants trying to salvage something from the disaster in front of them. That being said, most who sampled this said that the flavours were nice, it was simply the pastry that let it down and this is easily remedied....
I'm glad I tried it and I learned a lot. You learn much more I think when you make mistakes and whilst it's disappointing that it didn't work out as planned, I'm sure next time it will. I'm going to say that I've just scraped through to the next round as my imaginary co-contestant dropped theirs on the floor!
Thanks for reading.