Pecan Pie Baklava

Pecan Pie Baklava. This is my own personal creation for the “pie” unit for Christina Tosi’s Creative Baking Class. Tosi is brilliant in that her pies are not traditional. Her classic “Milk Bar Pie” has a crust of a crushed up, homemade oatmeal cookie that’s delicious and addictive. For her class, we need to create our own version of pie–not the traditional pie crust and filling. Rethinking what a “crust” and even what a “pie” is is inspiring in itself, so I decided for my second project to make Pecan Pie Filling as a layer of a whole baklava pie–the crust is the baklava and it’s the filling (between the layers, I retain the nature of baklava by still putting nuts in between each layer). When I usually make baklava, it’s pistachios, but because I am channeling the South, I decided to use pecans all the way through. Sorry, Dad!

As a former North Carolina resident, I learned to love Pecan Pie (as well as the classic Banana Cream Pie, but that will come, I think, for the cake upcoming). While living down there, I also liked to channel my Lebanese background and would make all sorts of appetizers and desserts with Phyllo dough. So while this pie isn’t Tosi-esque because I didn’t crumble a cookie, use cereal, or add something cloyingly sweet but unusual, it’s definitely me. When I think of pie, I think of a flakey, buttery crust, and I think the best form of a pie is either with Phyllo or Puff Pastry, hence my choice of crust.

I used a 6-inch springform pan and layered in Phyllo dough and buttered alternate sheets. I tossed chopped pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and fresh orange zest in between 3 layers. When I was halfway done, I put traditional pecan pie filling in the middle so it’s a true hybrid. The last few layers of Phyllo are circles to make a smooth top, and cutting this diamond pattern was very tedious. If it wasn’t for my best friend, I don’t think I could have done it. We worked on the design as a team!

The key to good baklava is to make sure the syrup is cooled and then it is slowly spooned on top of the hot baklava so that it seeps deeply and evenly.

Be warned: This is a bit tedious between the layering and the cutting, but it’s worth it if you have the patience. Enjoy!

Here’s my recipe!

INGREDIENTS FOR PECAN PIE FILLING
1 egg
7 tablespoons of light corn syrup
7 tablespoons of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of butter melted (salted)
1 cup of pecans
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
a little orange zest

INGREDIENTS FOR BAKLAVA CRUST LAYERS
1/3 cup honey
1 (3″) cinnamon stick
3/4 cups sugar, divided
1.5 tablespoons bourbon
2 cups raw pecans
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1 teaspoon orange curls
20 (17×12″) sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (you will likely not use the whole box, but it’s better to have more than less)
1 cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, melted (European, like Kerrygold, is preferred)

Special Equipment
A 6-inch springform pan

1.) First, make your pecan pie filling. In a bowl, mix together egg, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, pecans, cinnamon, and orange zest. Set aside.

2.) Preheat oven to 350°F.

3.) Next, make your baklava syrup. Bring honey, cinnamon sticks, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil until syrup is reduced. Transfer to a medium bowl, stir in bourbon and let cool.

4.) Meanwhile, spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 13–15 minutes. Let cool. Transfer nuts to a food processor. Add ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. orange zest, and remaining sugar (about 3 tablespoons) and pulse until coarsely chopped.

5.) Place a stack of phyllo sheets on a work surface. Keep any phyllo you’re not currently working with covered under a layer of plastic wrap topped with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Using a base of the springform pan as a guide, and starting at edge of phyllo, carefully cut out 20 (9″) circles, leaving as much phyllo remaining as possible. Cover phyllo circles. Using base of pan as a guide, cut remaining phyllo into 20 (4 1/2″) half-circles.

6.) Insert base into pan and secure the latch. Brush base with butter. Place 1 phyllo circle in pan and brush generously with butter. To save dough, cut dough into rectangular strips, cut into two square, and then cut each square into a diagonal triangle and to layer your pan. Each time you double up on a layer, brush with butter, and try to use your pastry brush to smooth and fit the sheets to be rounded off into the pan.

7.) Once you are a quarter of the way up, layer with seasoned pecans and shake the pan back and forth to make sure there’s an even distribution. Continue to layer and butter as you see fit.

8.) Repeat the previous steps for when you’re halfway through. Once halfway, add pecan pie filling. Put extra layers of phyllo to support the weight of the filling.

9.) I used triangles layered on top of one another and then the “springform traced circles for the top as that layer is very delicate and needs to be cut through. Be sure to save your circles for the top and fill your springform pan about 75% of the way.

10.) Repeat the previous steps and fill the other layers with the seasoned nut filling as you did before. You should have nuts on the first quarter, third quarter, and almost at the very top.

11.) OPTIONAL (if you want the pattern I did): Using a sharp knife, score the top layer (do not cut through to the bottom of the pan) to divide into 4 quadrants. Working with 1 quadrant at a time, make 1 straight cut to divide the quadrant into 2 even wedges. Make 4 more straight cuts (2 each on either side of, and parallel to the quadrant division line), spacing evenly apart. Now working within each wedge, make 2 evenly-spaced cuts parallel to the outside edge of the quadrant, connecting at points with the previous cuts to form a diamond pattern. Repeat with the remaining quadrants to create a starburst pattern.

ALTERNATIVE CUTTING METHOD: In the past, I’ve made diamond cuts by carefully slice the baklava into 4 long even strips lengthwise, then slice diagonally to create diamond-shaped baklava.

12.) Transfer pan to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until phyllo is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Spoon cooled syrup over hot baklava in 4 additions. Place orange curls on top. Let cool completely in pan. Remove springform ring and cut baklava along the scored lines.

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