I chose this for my inaugural post because this pastry is the most frequently requested by my friends and family. So much so, in fact, that I wish that I would be asked to make something else because I have made this SO MANY TIMES! But, it is pretty fabulous. My mother first whetted my appetite for making baklava and she made many trays of it herself over the years. One day I saw chocolate baklava in the refrigerator section of a local supermarket and I thought to myself, “I can do better than chocolate baklava from [unnamed low level supermarket]!” So I set to work trying to figure it out and I think you’ll find that this is a crowd-pleaser. This is one of the recipes from my cookbook, More Dining on the Nile.
Over the years I have tweaked my basic baklava recipe a little and I’ve found that the best balance of both crisp and syrup-soaked phyllo sheets is achieved when pouring hot syrup over cold baklava.
Makes 48 (1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″) pieces
Transfer frozen phyllo dough to refrigerator the night before you make baklava. Allow to sit at room temperature for one hour before using.
Prepare 9″x13″ rimmed baking sheet and preheat oven to 350F.
Combine nuts, vanilla and sugar and set aside. Unwrap phyllo dough and unroll sheets on a large flat surface to facilitate your work. Mark half the sheets. Begin layering phyllo dough sheets in the pan two at a time — lightly drizzling with butter and oil mixture after every two sheets. Continue layering and drizzling until you have reached the halfway mark. Spread nut mixture even over phyllo dough sheets. Melt chocolate by putting the chocolate chips and shortening over a double boiler (or in the microwave for 30-second bursts) until smooth. Drizzle half of the melted chocolate over the nuts. Continue layering and drizzling second half of phyllo dough sheets.
Cut into 1 1/2″x 1 1/2″ diamond pieces with a serrated knife. Drizzle remaining butter and oil mixture over top. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until just browned on top. Cool.
Make simple syrup: Dissolve sugar in water over medium heat and stir occasionally. As soon as sugar melts add lemon juice and stop stirring. Simmer until slightly thickened (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and pour over cooled baklava.
Let baklava cool for a few minutes and then drizzle remainder of melted chocolate (it might need to be rewarmed to make it pourable) over top using a flicking motion with your wrist. Chill for 15 minutes or until chocolate is set. Allow baklava to absorb syrup for about one hour before serving.