Deconstructed Apple Baklava


22 Dec Deconstructed Apple Baklava

Deconstructed Apple Baklava by The Messy Baker

This recipe is a game changer. It turns baklava into a no-fail dessert for two types of Baklava Balkers — those who think phyllo is too hard to work with, and those who think the classic Greek dessert is too sweet.

I’ve blogged about working with phyllo and gone on television — twice! — to demonstrate how easy it is to handle. Many remain unconvinced. When I mention phyllo, people shake their heads. They don’t come out and say it, but I just know they think I have restricted access to a secret brand that only works in the kitchens of women’s magazines and food writers. Phyllo never works in theirs. Ever. Rest assured, if you have been struck by the Phyllo Curse, this will undo the spell. This recipe actually wants you to shred the pastry. Got a feisty roll that won’t cooperate? Deconstructed Apple Baklava is designed for ornery phyllo. No folding, cutting, brushing, or hiding the tissue thin sheets under towels. Just slice, toss in melted butter and drop it in a pan.

And to those who find baklava too sweet, I agree. It certainly can be. In this version, tart apples and bitter citrus zest tone down the sugar and honey. Find baklava a bit one-note?  Vanilla and cinnamon team up with the citrus to round out the flavours.

So take your notions of super-sweet baklava and ultra-fussy phyllo and pack them neatly in some Tupperware. Shove it to the back of the fridge along with the pickles and chutney you forgot about. Keep them there until you’ve tried this recipe. If you still think phyllo’s a pain, I will say no more of it. If you still think the dessert is too sweet, I will take your share. If you do — as I predict —  like it, don’t thank me. Thank Shelley Adams. It’s from her new book Whitewater Cooks with Passion (Alicon ©2014).

Deconstructed Apple Baklava by The Messy Baker

Deconstructed Apple baklava
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Serves 12
A rustic version of traditional Greek baklava. This is going to become a favourite “go to” recipe guaranteed! Thanks to the unflappable backcountry chef Marianne Abraham, for reinventing this recipe that we loved from our movie catering days. Serves 12
  • 1 package phyllo dough, frozen
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup pistachios, chopped finely
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped finely
  • 1 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped finely
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium-size tart apples, peeled and chopped finely
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 orange, juice and zest of
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  3. Remove plastic wrap from phyllo and let thaw on counter until you can unroll it.
  4. Unroll and remove inner plastic separator sheet. Reroll phyllo.
  5. Cut phyllo roll into ¾-inch pieces.
  6. Transfer phyllo pieces to large bowl, tossing with the melted butter until well coated and ribbon like.
  7. Place half of the phyllo ribbons into the baking pan. Press firmly until it is fairly compact.
  8. Mix chopped nuts, sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, salt and chopped apples and spread over base layer.
  9. Cover loosely with the other half of the phyllo ribbons.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes until phyllo is golden brown. Make the syrup while the baklava is baking.
  1. Mixed together all syrup ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a low boil.
  2. Whisk constantly while on the low boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove baklava from oven and immediately pour hot syrup over the hot baklava.
  4. Serve slightly warm with your favourite vanilla ice cream.


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  • Catou
    Posted at 21:39h, 24 December Reply

    Oh, help! Desperate to know what to make for Christmas dinner dessert tomorrow, I was going to try to find a use for a jar of honey and nuts that I bought in a Russian market months ago. Lo – and behold! Your deconstructed baklava recipe appeared in my email inbox! Sent my husband out to get phyllo… put off making it until a few other things were accomplished. Now… in the kitchen beginning to prep it… and I have a question. Probably won’t hear from anyone, but here goes: There are TWO rolls of phyllo in the package. Am I supposed to use both rolls? Just one? Figuring I will need to wing it and use both given that there seems to be a lot of syrup involved and butter to mix with the phyllo… but hoping against hope that someone will answer me and I’ll find out the answer, even if I’ve already gone and made it with both rolls. Thanks for the great recipe. Seems easy enough I might be able to turn it over to my husband to finish for me once we get started. :-)

    • Cat
      Posted at 21:40h, 24 December Reply

      Ooops… sorry… name is “cat” not “catou” :-)

      • Charmian Christie
        Posted at 18:47h, 27 December Reply

        Cat it is then…

    • Cat
      Posted at 08:15h, 25 December Reply

      After making this, two more questions… and probably a good thing I didn’t turn this over to my “sous chef”…

      1. Should I have actually separated the “noodle” slices of phyllo into individual pieces instead of leaving them in rolled up sections? When adding the butter, the whole thing turned into one soggy, clumpy, glommy mess. Impossible to separate into anything that looked like a noodle. I’m guessing only one of the rolls might have been needed, as the amount of butter for the two rolls of phyllo didn’t seem to be enough. Perhaps with just one roll, the “noodles” would be swimming in the butter? I added more, which made the doughy clumps even worse; but we waded through that and got the globs of dough somewhat separated to have a few clumps on top of the apple-nut mixture.

      2. The syrup boiling time and end result. Since elevation matters for length of time boiling to achieve the end result, I wondered what the end result of the syrup was supposed to be. I’m pretty sure what we achieved is just gooey and shiny, but wondered if it should have thickened any. When we poured it over the top, it certainly made the gloms of dough on top look much better, as we ended up baking everything – before putting the syrup on – for about 40 minutes trying to get the gloms to brown a bit… otherwise, not very appetizing.

      So… now we’ll wait to see what happens when we serve it. Wondering if it is going to stick to everyone’s teeth at this point! 😉 I suspect this will certainly be a dessert to remember, and we may always remember this Christmas because of it. :-) Still thankful for your recipe. Just need to find out how many steps we did wrong. 😉

      • Charmian Christie
        Posted at 19:06h, 27 December Reply

        I did separate the noodle ribbons a bit before adding the butter, but it will turn into a bit of a soggy mess not matter what you do. The trick is to drizzle the butter and toss at the same time to distribute evenly. Even done with great care, this will not be a neat process. You did nothing wrong. You will get clumps since the dough is thirsty and the butter is wet. I had to use my hands quite a bit to get the dough distributed on top of the apple/nut filling. It’s very rustic, and the unevenness adds to the character — or so I tell myself. If you look at my photographs, you’ll see that the dough is a bit uneven.

        As for the syrup, it should be very pourable, not thick like molasses. A lot depends on the honey itself but it is supposed to permeate the baklava and get into all the little nooks and crannies, not just sit on top. If pouring the syrup on top made it look better, then you probably made the syrup just fine. It’s more a sauce to coat the filling, than an actual topping.

        I, too, cooked my baklava a bit longer than the recipe called for to get the browned topping. My oven is running slow these days and needs to be calibrated. Since ovens can vary so much, you’re always best to use the timing as a guideline and the visual clues as confirmation. If you needed extra time to get the browned top then you did the right thing.

        Despite your questions and struggles, it sounds like you did just fine. I don’t think you did anything wrong at all. I love that you are being good sports about the issues you encountered. Tell the story with gusto. And some wine. I’m sure you can dine out on it for a long time. I hope the final dish turned out to your liking. Kudos for sticking with it. I’m sure your guests appreciated a homemade dessert, even if it was a challenge to make.

        • Cat
          Posted at 08:28h, 28 December Reply

          Well, I didn’t get to eat any of the dessert because I’m gluten and dairy free, plus need to limit sugar… but judging by the disappearance of the baklava (including sending four pieces home with one guest), and my husband still loving the remainder at a rate of one piece each evening – cold! – I think it must have been quite tasty. Since I made it the night before and then put it in the fridge, I popped it into the already warm oven while we ate and it was perfect for serving after dinner. Timing was key for me because I had that jar of nut and honey filling so handy, so desperate to figure out something to make. Thank you again for the recipe. :-) Sorry for freaking out and worrying so much… c@

          • Charmian Christie
            Posted at 10:31h, 28 December

            It’s hard not to freak out when it’s Christmas and last minute and things are going off the rail faster than pine needles fall from a dried out Christmas tree. You kept going, which is all that matters, so kudos to you!

            I’m so glad the dessert turned out well, despite your questions. If a guest took 4 pieces home, I’ll take that as a compliment. As for your husband loving it cold the next day, I confess I had some for breakfast straight from the fridge myself.

            Thanks for taking the time to let me know how things turned out. I’m happy it was a success and enabled you to use up the nut and honey filling.

            All the best for 2015!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:47h, 27 December Reply

      Good question. I should have specified the package size. The phyllo package I used was 454g or 1 pound. It had only one roll of dough in it, but regardless, the recipe calls for 1 pound of phyllo dough. The number of rolls is less important than the total amount.

      Hope this helped. Onto your next comment… 😉

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