Oh, baklava – how I wish you were vegan.
For years I wanted to try baklava. But two things were holding me back: one – I was vegan, and two – I was terrified of filo pastry (and thus was scared to make my own baklava). Then, two summers ago, during my pregnancy-induced-vegan-hiatus, I tried baklava at a Middle Eastern restaurant for the first time. And it was delicious, of course. Sweet, crispy, nutty, indulgent – a magnificent ending to a dinner of falafel and hummus (that’s for sure). Well, of course, now I needed baklava sans butter (and honey). So it became time for me to tackle the filo pastry monster.
I’ve since made baklava twice, and after the first time I had the idea of making pumpkin baklava. It just made sense to me. Maybe because of the time of year. Who knows. When you make baklava, I recommend having people to share it with, so you don’t end up eating too much of it. It’s so delicious, but full of lots and lots of calories. This pumpkin baklava is wonderful: rich, crispy, sweet, spicy, and it melts in your mouth. It would be a great dessert to make after a Middle Eastern feast or potluck. And, hey, if someone is having a Middle Eastern potluck, please invite me! I’ll bring the baklava!
The reason I was so nervous about using filo pastry was because of how fast you need to work with it. Usually I go at my own pace in the kitchen. I’m not slow, really, I just don’t like to rush. Honestly I don’t know what I was so worried about. Using filo dough is not hard when it comes to making baklava. Just make sure you have your mies en plas, or everything in it’s place before you begin.
Vegan Pumpkin Baklava
Sweet pumpkin syrup:
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. pumpkin butter -or- pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 c. walnuts
1 1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. pistachios
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 package (roll) of filo pastry (also called phyllo dough)
3/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. pumpkin butter -or- pumpkin puree
First, you want to make the sweet syrup so it has time to cool. In a saucepan, heat the water and sugar until dissolved. Add the maple syrup, pumpkin, vanilla and cinnamon – simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat and transfer to a large glass measuring pitcher (or other container), cover and refrigerate. The syrup needs to be completely cool before pouring over the pastry.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Spread a thin layer of coconut oil on a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Set aside. In a blender or food processor, pulse the nuts with the cinnamon until they are coarse, but not too fine. Set aside. Unroll the filo pastry and lay it on a flat surface, cover it with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and a clean, damp towel. Place 3 or so (doesn’t need to be perfect) sheets of filo in the pan, brush the top sheet with some coconut oil, and spread a layer of pumpkin butter on top. Sprinkle a thin layer of the nut mixture on top of the pumpkin, and add a few more sheets of filo pastry on top of the nuts. Repeat with the coconut oil, pumpkin, nuts, filo until you basically run out of nuts. Top with several sheets of filo pastry (4-6 – or the amount remaining) and brush coconut oil between every two sheets and on top.
Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into squares insuring each piece is completely cut. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven and pour the cooled syrup on top of the baklava. Now the hardest part: allow to cool for 2-3 hours uncovered.
*If you want to make traditional (vegan) baklava, omit the pumpkin ingredients from the recipe.