I remember the first time I tried Greek food. I was dating this guy — we’ll call him A — and he and his family lived in downtown Sacramento in this gorgeous 40’s-era mansion. ‘A’ and his folks were really liberal and artsy and totally not at all like what I was used to, growing up in a pretty conservative-dominant neighborhood. They shopped at farmer’s markets and liked thrifting; they listened to obscure jazz musicians, traveled the world, and used organic soap. Like, totally hippie-dippie-complete-opposite of everything I’ve ever known.
BUT. Because of this, I got a couple of odd (but good-odd) dates with A. Like, one time we went to a lecture for this supposedly-famous psychologist. And another time we went to a really nice restaurant two hours away from home, just because. But my favorite date had to be the time his parents gave us tickets to a Greek Food Festival.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but dude – Greeks are awesome. And their food is ridiculously good. As a girl who grew up on Taco Bell and Twinkies, pastitsio, dolmas and moussaka were a whole new world for me. And don’t eeeeven get me started on baklava. One bite of that heavenly, sticky-sweet confection and I was sold… and I don’t even really like honey all that much. It’s just something magical that the Greeks do to make phyllo and nuts taste like heaven. I’m convinced they have voodoo powers or something.
ANYWHO. Despite attending this food festival over 10 years ago (wait, omg.), I still had yet to make baklava. There was just something so … annoying? with all the preparation required in making it, and again – honey gives me the shivers. But I decided to get over my weird honey-phobia and stick it to baklava by making it my own unique way — trashed up beyond recognition with chocolate chip cookie dough and a gooey brown sugar & vanilla simple syrup.
Y’all ready to get baklava crunk?
*inspired from Tieghan’s recipe
- 1 pkg phyllo dough, thawed
- 1 stick butter, melted
- FOR COOKIE DOUGH:
- 1 & ½ sticks butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- About 3 cups flour
- 1 & ½ cups miniature chocolate chips
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 squares Chocolate CandiQuik
- FOR VANILLA & BROWN SUGAR SYRUP:
- 1 cup water
- 1 & ½ cups brown sugar (I used dark, but light works too)
- 2 Tbsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a 13x9" pan with cooking spray; set aside. Meanwhile, make your cookie dough: in a large bowl with a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar & sugar with a paddle attachment until creamy. Add in milk and vanilla, beat to combine. Lastly, add in the salt, flour, walnuts and chocolate chips until a soft dough has formed. Set aside.
- Begin layering your phyllo in the pan. Place one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the pan and brush it with melted butter. Top with another piece of phyllo, brush it with butter, and repeat the process until you've stacked 10 pieces of phyllo on top of one another. *NOTE: while you work, be sure to keep the rest of the phyllo dough covered with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.*
- Carefully press HALF of the chocolate chip cookie dough on top of the bottom phyllo layer. You may want to take chunks of cookie dough, flatten them in your hand, and kind of form them into a layer by hand to prevent ripping the phyllo underneath.
- Repeat by adding TEN (10) more layers of buttered phyllo (buttering each sheet of phyllo after laying it), then top with the remaining cookie dough. Lastly, add the remaining phyllo dough, buttering each sheet as you layer. Cut the baklava with a very sharp knife in square or diamond pattern.
- Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the vanilla & brown sugar simple syrup over top. Allow the baklava to set for at LEAST 6 hours, preferably overnight* before cutting completely into squares or diamonds and serving.
- If desired, feel free to drizzle on melted CandiQuik for an added chocolate drizzle garnish, as I did. Store leftovers airtight, at room temperature, for a couple days.
- *TO MAKE THE SIMPLE SYRUP: Bring the water, brown sugar and vanilla to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
This stuff is damn good, people. The buttery cookie dough, crispy phyllo, crunchy walnuts and chocolate chips, and the drizzle of chocolate on top makes for such an indulgent, badass dessert. If you don’t like walnuts, feel free to leave them out – I liked adding them for crunch and to keep one traditional component to this baklava. You could also use pistachios, pecans or peanuts, or swap the cookie dough for a peanut butter, butterscotch or sugar cookie dough!
…Just invite me over if you make those changes 🙂