A fun twist on a classic favorite!
Step 1: Ingredients
1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough
10 oz bag chocolate chips (I prefer bittersweet or dark, but you can use what you like best)
1 c. chopped maraschino cherries
1 c. butter
12 - 16 oz chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon (This is optional. I don't like cinnamon with chocolate so I didn't use it)
1 c. water
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
You will also need:
9x13 baking dish
clean kitchen towel
pastry brush (not *needed* but very helpful)
Step 2: Syrup First
In a heavy pot, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, until all the sugar is dissolved. Watch this carefully because sugar bubbles up fast and is not fun to clean off your stove!
Once mixture is bubbling, reduce heat to a simmer. Add honey and vanilla, and mix to combine. Simmer this for 20 minutes.
Transfer to a jar or bowl to cool while you prep your baklava
** If you want your baklava to be even more cherry, you can use some of the juice from your jar of cherries instead of water when making this syrup! The result is a bright red syrup. This will, however, turn your baklava a pink or reddish color.
I used the standard syrup in my recipe.
Step 3: Prep Before Assembly
Before starting the layers of your baklava, make sure you have your walnuts chopped, your cherries diced, and your chocolate chips open and easily accessible. Set your cherries to drain a bit before using them so they don't make your baklava soggy.
If you are using cinnamon, mix it well with your chopped walnuts.
You will also need to melt your butter. Try to bring your butter just to the point of being melted- you don't want it too hot.
And last, you will need to get your small kitchen towel damp. Try to wring out as much of the water as possible! Really squeeze it!
Step 4: Layer by Layer
Some basic rules:
- Lay your Phyllo dough flat and cover it with your damp towel until you're ready for it. Every time you are not getting Phyllo sheets, you need to recover it with the towel or it will dry out and get crumbly.
- Phyllo dough always goes down 2 sheets at a time. Those 2 sheets are always brushed on top with melted butter
- When brushing with butter, have a light hand. It's fine if every inch isn't coated. You can use an extra tablespoon or 2 of butter if you run out - but too much more is going to make your baklava soggy. (but probably still delicious)
To assemble your baklava:
Begin by brushing the bottom and sides of your dish with melted butter.
Put 2 sheets of phyllo dough in your dish. Lightly brush these sheets with your melted butter.
Repeat this 4 times, until you have 8 sheets of phyllo dough in your baking dish.
Next, sprinkle some of your walnuts over the top.
Follow this by 2 more sheets of phyllo dough, and brush the top with butter.
Now, sprinkle with chocolate chips and bits of cherries.
2 more phyllo sheets, butter, then walnuts.
2 more phyllo sheets, butter, then chocolate and cherries.
Repeat over and over!
To finish the top, repeat the 8 layers of dough, with butter between each two (like we did for the bottom)
I like to set aside 8 sheets of phyllo dough for my top layers, so I don't have to keep counting while I'm assembling the baklava.
- Don't panic if your phyllo bunches up or tears. It's totally fine! You won't be able to tell in the end, it's nothing to stress about.
- If your sides get too tall toward the end, you can just push them down into the baking dish when you're finished.
- You don't have to have all the nuts, chocolate, or cherries on your layers perfect or even. Because there's going to be so many layers, you'll end up with enough ingredients in each bite. If you run out of one of the filling ingredients, that's fine too! You'll just have more of that ingredient in your bottom layers!
- I had about 1/2 c. of chocolate chips left. I just melted them and drizzled them over the top. (okay, so maybe I ate half of them, and drizzled 1/4 c. on top)
Step 5: Cutting and Baking
Preheat your oven to 350°F
Now, pre-cut your baklava. You'll need a sharp, serrated knife. Make sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the dish. Take your time and be careful - the top sheets of phyllo are going to want to stick to your fingers and the knife.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, phyllo dough is crisp and stubborn once it's baked. It crumbles and flakes and it's difficult to make it cooperate and cut into the shapes you want.
But more importantly, we're going to be pouring syrup over this as soon as it comes out of the oven, and it would be too hot to touch and cut.
Step 6: Final Touch
Bake your Baklava for 50 minutes, or until super golden and crispy.
As soon as you remove your baklava from the oven, spoon your syrup evenly over the entire thing.
You can absolutely eat this immediately, but I think it's best to let it set until it cools to room temperature and all the syrup has been absorbed.
When storing, loosely top with a sheet of wax paper (or similar) and keep at room temperature - If you cover this tightly, it will make the baklava soggy.
**I've currently had this sitting, loosely covered, on my counter for 4 days and it's just as good as it was the first day. Maybe even better because they cherry is coming out more. And it's still crispy!