Baklava is a middle eastern pastry that is made with layers of filo dough, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened – or perhaps I should say drenched – with honey. The flavors are great, but it can be messy to eat, as your fingers inevitably get very sticky. That said, I still like to serve it around the holidays because it’s got a very unusual flavor compared to the cakes and cupcakes you might expect to see at a holiday party. This year I wanted to do something a little less traditional with baklava, and came up with a new way to serve it that delivers all the flavor but takes very little work.
I made a filling of chopped walnuts, sugar, honey, butter and spices and rolled it up into little pockets of puff pastry. Puff pastry bakes up into nice, flaky layers just like filo dough does, but is much less fiddly to deal with. It also delivers and extra buttery flavor, which goes nicely with the filling. The bite-sized treats take just minutes to put together and are ready to serve right out of the oven. When they’re fresh, the pastry is light any crispy. It’s a good contrast for the rich, crunchy filling – especially when the filling is still slightly warm.
Some puff pastry things require that they be bake right before serving to preserve the crispiness of the pastry. This is not one of those dishes and can be made a day or two ahead of time. When baked in advance and stored in an airtight container, the pastry keeps some of its lightness, but the butter and honey from the filling soaks into some of the pastry and gives it that same stickiness that traditional baklava has and seems to have a more intensely honeyed flavor.
16-oz puff pastry, room temperature
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and allspice
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl stir together walnuts, sugar, spices and salt until well mixed. Add in melted butter and honey and stir well. Set aside.
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. If you are dealing with two sheets, aim to get two 8×10-inch rectangles about 1/8-inch thick, or slightly thicker. If you are dealing with just one sheet, simply roll it out into a large rectangle, or a 16×10-inch, if you can get it.
Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut pastry into approx 2×4-inch strips (cut pastry in half, or quarters when dealing with a large sheet, then divide into strips.). Place 1 tbsp filling on one end of each strip, then fold the pastry over to make a pocket. Press pastry together to seal. If necessary, dampen fingers with water before sealing edges.
Place the bites on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until pastries are puffed and golden. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Pastries can be served fresh from the oven or at room temperature.
Leftover pastries should be stored in an airtight container.