Prototyping Baklava

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I’ve only had baklava a few times in my life, but my memories of it was that seems so delicate. I was hesitant to make it since I’m a stranger to baking, but this blog is all about new challenges. When I surreptitiously got the recipe over a conversation at a bar, I walked home in the rain and immediately grabbed a notebook and started jotting down what I could remember.

All of the dishes on the menu were new to me, but most the techniques felt familiar. However, baklava seemed to require some prototyping love. Luckily, my co-workers were eager taste test subjects.

Some notes:

The key: I was told that the most important thing was to take the syrup off the heat before pouring it over the baklava. When, pouring, the baklava should be hotter than the syrup.

Cutting the baklava before pouring the syrup creates more crevices that will soak up the syrupy goodness.

Measure once, cut twice. When prototyping, I didn’t cut the phyllo cleanly. This ended up causing one side of the phyllo to snag and slowed down the process.

Layers upon layers. There seemed to be a lot of variation in the number of layers you put between layers of nuts. I ended up feeling that eight as the base and four for each intermediate layer and eight on top was the right number.

Painting Paula Deen style. Everyone who gives you a baklava recipe stresses that you have to butter each layer of phyllo which is the painstaking part. A few drinks and a movie in the background helps those who are attention-impaired like me.

-Nuts. I think I originally over-thought the exact nut mixture to use. 60% walnuts, 30% almonds, 10% pistachios? I ended up realizing it doesn’t matter too much. For me, baklava is more about the texture.

Overall, I think baklava is not too tricky as long as you buy good phyllo and are somewhat patient. One final prototyping note: I should vary a couple of parameters like amount of cinnamon/syrup/number of layers to maximize what I learn from each cooking experiment.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. cooking meets programming. i want to see some rapid cooking development. how did you keep the phyllo from drying out?

  2. sdee says:

    Butter and lots of butter! Some people use a cheesecloth or damp towel, but I found that neither were really needed.

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