With the holidays looming I find it’s always a good idea to play around with pastry, because that’s really a life-saver for when you have minimal ingredients in the house and need to whip something delicious and guest-friendly out of your pantry. The cooling period in the fridge is the most time consuming part of this whole recipe, because it’s actually super straight-forward and indulgent!
Man-thing and I often go eat out at a local seafood restaurant because he gets to indulge himself (since we have a meat-free home) and I get to eat some avo and cucumber maki and cheese-free salad. I’m always curious with their desserts, and quizz him often about texture, taste, consistency…pretty much all food blogger questions that possibly interfere with his enjoyment of the dish (but that’s too bad). The restaurant is supposed to have a Greek vibe to it, so most of the desserts are wrapped in phyllo pastry, and thus I’ve been inspired of late to try my hand at using phyllo sheets, which is rather new to my kitchen.
I’m not a big fan of pastry in general but I tip my hat to whoever makes this frozen stuff, because I would cry if I had to roll out paper-thin strips of phyllo from scratch. It’s better to try wacky experiments now before the zombie apocalypse, whilst we still have refrigeration on our side.
For some guidelines I referred to Mouthwatering Vegan’s best ever baklava recipe for inspiration (wowza!) and then to Souvlaki for the Soul for the cinnamon-bun style rolling technique which I saw in the menu of the restaurant. Most Baklava has a thousand more layers and isn’t rolled, but honestly, I don’t have the time for faffy techniques, and it came out ridiculously good, so win-win!
- 1/2 c salted pistachios, measured after shelling
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips/crushed dark chocolate baking discs (I prefer carob nuggets but was all out!)
- 1 cup/140g dried figs
- 1 cup tea of choice (add more if required)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 dropper NuNaturals Lemon flavour NuStevia
- Optional: extra sugar to taste
- 1 cup sugar of choice (xylitol works BUT it takes much longer to form a syrup and in fact needs cooling beforehand – use normal brown sugar for a glossy amber syrup)
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 12 phyllo sheets, cut to 28cm in length
- 1/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil
- Thaw your phyllo sheets well in advance.
- While your phyllo sheets are thawing, start with your stewed figs.
- Cut the tips off the figs and place them, the spices and tea in a pot, bring to boiling then simmer on medium-low heat for 30 or so minutes until soft and the liquid has gone.
- Cool the figs, remove the star anise and cinnamon stick, then blend briefly down in a food processor or chop roughly but finely by hand.
- Spray a deep-dish baking tray.
- Layer 4 phyllo sheets on your work station, using a pastry brush to pain a thin layer of coconut oil or melted butter in between each one.
- Crush the rest of your filling with a mortar and pestle, then add your lemon zest and fig, stirring to combine.
- Much like a cinnamon roll, spoon your filling 1 cm from the edge along the length closest to you, about 2 – 3 cm thick and up to the edge of the width-side. Roll it up tightly to create a log.
- Using a cake tester or toothpick poke holes evenly across the surface for the syrup to seep into later on. Cut into 8 pieces whilst holding the pastry firmly. Squash any filling that spills out back in the sides.
- Repeat with the rest of the sheets/filling. Pack the pieces firmly against each other.
- Halfway through your second log, start preheating the oven to 180C.
- Paint the top of each log with the oil/butter.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Halfway through the baking process heat your sauce ingredients together in a pan until just boiling, then simmer for 5 or so minutes until it forms a syrup that is thick BUT pourable (unless using xylitol, which it will take longer to cook).
- Pour the syrup over the whole of the warm pastry. Use a spatula to ensure it spreads evenly if need be.
- Refrigerate for two hours, then slice again to separate and serve.
- Optional: for extra decadent, uber ridiculousness, dip a corner of the baklava slice in chocolate with pistachio dust (if you need an excuse you can pretend it makes it easier to pick up and eat :p)
My oven is ancient so it only has the options to cook from the top or the bottom, which is why my pastries aren’t as golden brown on top as they are underneath. Honestly, who cares though when a little dessert looks like that? I wanted to eat them warm but restrained myself most nobly.
Ok, confession time. When I first tasted one about half an hour into fridge time I was a bit wigged out, but that’s only because I haven’t eaten sugar like this in ages. An hour later I tried one more (for science) and it was just delicious! The treats really need sometime in the fridge to really shine and merge the flavours properly. It’s crispy and sweet but has that deep fig and spice flavour that just transports the dish to a different level of yum.
Man-thing, can you believe it, says I could add more syrup/sugar, and that it’s not the sweetest thing he’s ever eaten. Well, let’s just say that although I’m in stretchy pants mode thanks to the lack of gym lately, it doesn’t mean all caution is being thrown to the wind. I like treats that don’t make me groggy from a sugar rush and dip, and with these little bites you get the perfect blend of sweetness, a splash of salty nuts, and some wonderful zesty fruit.
This got the MIL seal of approval, not to mention Man-thing hounding me about when I’ll finish taking photos so that he can eat everything, so all in all it’s a success! Despite the longish looking list of ingredients, this was actually a super therapeutic process and went by much quicker than I thought! I’m therefore tempted to make this again, since any filling will do – I even blended up the rest of my stewed fruit and mixed that with cashews and wowza, what a delightful combo!