Dec 03, 2021, Updated Jan 10, 2023
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Baklawa (baklava) fans, get ready for this: CHOCOLATE BAKLAVA! I devised my recipe for deep chocolate flavor while maintaining the crisp phyllo texture and buttery nutty notes that are hallmarks of great baklawa.
Please hear me out.
My chocolate baklava dreams began many years ago. This was back when the children in the family, my nieces and nephews, would have nothing whatsoever to do with a piece of baklawa. No matter how many backflips Aunt Maureen did to get a bite of baklawa into them open-mouthed and mid-laughter, no such thing occurred.
Now, of all of the stunning beauty that is Lebanese pastry, from delicate phyllos to meltaway cookies, there is not one, NOT A ONE, that is traditionally made with chocolate. Am I right?
This pains me.
If I want to associate chocolate with any of our traditions, I have to come right to the point and call it “fresh.” As in, “Fresh and Classic Lebanese Recipes.” You understand.
I have needs. The other day I ran into my brother Dick’s house just before we took off to go somewhere, and while everyone sat in the car waiting for me, I stood at his counter and ate a piece of chocolate. I chewed fast.
But not fast enough. As I walked out, all waiting in the vehicle could see I’d been eating something. Somehow they knew it was chocolate. Their offense was not so much that I’d done this, but that I had done it without bringing them a piece too.
The deal is that not one of them needs the chocolate. And I don’t mean anything to do with depriving them. I mean quite literally, They. Don’t. NEED. It. Not like I do.
I want to marry chocolate with Lebanese pastry in the worst way! I suspect that you, my people, my Habibis, you DO need it, like moi. And if you don’t, I’m going to try to get a piece of chocoate baklava into your mouth while I do backflips to make you laugh. Or at least with a recipe and photos right here that I hope will make you an offer you can’t refuse.
My Chocolate Baklawa recipe includes chocolate on every level possible: the clarified butter: chocolate. The simple syrup: chocolate. The nut filling: yes chocolate. My first rounds were with cocoa powder only and in just one of the elements for the chocolate flavor, but I realized for the depth I need, some dark chocolate must also be included. Bingo.
For the syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (any kind)
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
For the nuts:
- 3 cups whole walnuts (fine to substitute whole almonds, pistachios, or cashews), toasted
- 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped or chips
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
For the butter + phyllo:
- 1 pound box of phyllo, 9"x14" sheets, (2 sleeves in the box) room temperature
- 3/4 cup (6 oz.) clarified cultured butter such as Plugra or Kerrygold (measure after clarifying, from 8 oz butter), melted
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (any kind)
- Make the Syrup ahead to chill: In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk in the cocoa powder and the orange blossom water. Pour into another, heatproof, container and cool completely. Place the container in a bowl of ice water to chill down swiftly if needed. It is essential to pour cold syrup over the hot pastry when it comes out of the oven.
- Make the nuts: Grind, process, or finely chop the toasted nuts together with the chocolate. In a small bowl, stir together with the sugar.
- Make the chocolate butter: Whisk the melted clarified butter with cocoa powder until completely combined.
- Assemble the baklava: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Open one sleeve of the phyllo and unroll it on top of the plastic it is packaged in. Keep the phyllo covered with a towel.
- Trim the Phyllo: Using a metal 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, lay the pan over the phyllo to see how much phyllo needs to be cut to fit the pan. Cut about an inch off of the short side of the phyllo so it will fit in the pan. It’s better to leave the phyllo just a hair larger than the pan because it will shrink when it bakes.
- Layer the Phyllo + Nuts: Brush the bottom of the pan with the chocolate clarified butter. Lay one stack of 10 phyllo sheets in the pan. Spread a third of the nuts over the phyllo in one even layer. Lay the second stack of 10 phyllo sheets over the nuts. Spread another third of the nuts evenly over top. Open the second sleeve of phyllo and trim to fit the pan the same way as the first sleeve. Lay a stack of 10 sheets over the nuts, then add the final third of the nuts in an even layer. Lay the final stack of 10 sheets of phyllo over top, taking care that the top layer is a sheet that is not torn. Take a layer from the center of the sheets for the perfect top layer if necessary.
- Cut into diamonds: Brush the top layer or two with clarified butter. Using the tip of a very sharp chef’s knife, cut the baklawa into diamonds by cutting six rows (5 cuts) lengthwise and ten rows (9 cuts) crosswise on the diagonal. For slightly smaller and more pieces, cut 7 rows (6 cuts) lengthwise. Lightly score the top with your knife before diving in so you can see where the cuts will be.
- Use your dominant hand to cut and the other hand to hold the top layers of phyllo down while cutting, and be sure to cut all the way through to the bottom of the pan. This is essential so that the butter will seep through all layers. The knife is held almost perpendicular to the pastry, cutting straight down into the phyllo and nuts. The top layer will lift and in general make you want to curse as you cut, but just lay the phyllo back down where it belongs and move on. The sharper your knife, the easier the cutting will be.
- Pour over the butter and bake: Pour the melted chocolate clarified butter over the baklawa evenly. Allow the butter to settle in, tilting the pan as needed to distribute the butter evenly. Bake on the oven shelf second from the top until deep golden brown, 50-60 minutes, rotating the baklawa halfway through baking.
- Pour over the cold syrup: Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the chilled chocolate syrup evenly over the baklawa. When the pastry is just cool enough to handle, cut away a few pieces of the uneven edge morsels to eat warm (the baker's reward…). Let the baklawa cool for several hours to solidify and crisp up.
- Cut the pieces of baklawa from the pan with a sharp knife as needed. Serve in foil mini-muffin cups or directly on a plate, arranged in a circle with the points of the pieces facing the center. Keep the baklawa lightly, not tightly, covered in the pan with plastic wrap or a piece of wax paper for up to 2 weeks.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.