What I probably should have made was strudel. Sticky soft things do not go into baklava. Nutty, crunchy, crumbly, sweet: yes. Gooey and tart: no.
But today it was my turn to make the meal for our cohousing neighbors and I found myself stunned with spring sunshine and a taste for fresh food. There was dessert to consider. What if I made something with rhubarb? But not a cake, and I didn’t feel like custard, and I wanted something to go with the Greek veggie burgers I was making. Baklava is actually so easy to make, and why not with rhubarb? Why not maple?
One of the great things about living in cohousing is that my neighbors tend to be an adventurous sort. There are hard things too, of course, because we’re a feisty and passionate bunch. But we’re very, very good at eating food around here, at trying new things, especially when they’re sweetened. So why not rhubarb baklava? I couldn’t think of a good reason.
about 40 gooey pieces
Defrost 1 box of phyllo dough according to package directions.
Place in a heavy pot, bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until very soft:
- 2 lbs. rhubarb, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
- 2 cups maple syrup
Strain the rhubarb very well, saving the liquid.
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together in a medium bowl and place aside:
- 6 C. chopped walnuts
- 2 T. maple syrup
- 1 t. of ground cinnamon
Pour into a small bowl:
- 1/2 c. olive oil
Have a pastry brush ready.
Oil the bottom and sides of a large baking pan, at least 10 x 15. Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with a little oil. Allow any overlap to hang out the sides. Repeat until there are 4 sheets on the bottom.
Spread one half the nut mixture across the phyllo, then repeat the layers of phyllo and oil until 8 more sheets are on the top. Spoon the drained rhubarb on the top, then cover with 4 layers of phyllo and oil. Spread the remaining nut mixture, and then place the remaining sheets of phyllo on top with olive oil brushed between. Do not oil the top sheet.
Score the pastry in pieces using a razor blade, and follow up with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through. To make triangles: cut the pastry into squares, then, cut squares in half diagonally to make triangles.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden. While it’s baking, heat the reserved syrup.
As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour 2 cups of the hot syrup carefully over the entire pan. It will crackle as it absorbs. This is one of the most exciting parts of making the whole thing so be sure to take a moment for a satisfied grin. But don’t burn yourself.
Allow the baklava to cool thoroughly and absorb the syrup before serving (at least 3-4 hours). It’ll be a little goopy, but neither you nor your eaters will mind.