You know what this is? Maple Bourbon Baklava and it’s a little evil, that’s what. I’m not going to pretend I’m even the littlest bit sorry, though, because it’s also one of the better things I’ve ever turned out of my kitchen. It’s the Northeast (of the United States) meets the Middle East (of the world) by way of the Kentucky. It’s everything baklava usually is PLUS the sweet distinctive maple flavour and a little smokey caramel from the bourbon. My husband shouted “Yes!” when I described it as tasting like a pecan pie baklava. In short, it’s all that and a bag of chips.
I cannot tell a lie. This is WICKEDLY indulgent and by the time I nailed down my recipe, I had to give it away to keep us from eating yet another pan full of Maple Bourbon Baklava. There are a few tricks to working with phyllo dough, but I’ve already shared them in my Caradamom Pistachio Baklava post, so I’ll just direct you over to that post for the nitty gritty. Reading those tips will make your baklava-producing life FAR easier, so I highly recommend it.
I’ll just say this. Maple Bourbon Baklava is worth ANY kind of delicate work required of you from phyllo dough. Trust me.
- I won’t leave you completely hanging on helpful hints. The phyllo dough should be trimmed to the size of your 9- by 13-inch pan. This will make layering the phyllo much, much easier.
- The butter is glue for the phyllo layers. Don’t be tempted to skip it.
- The toughest layer to brush is the one that comes directly on top of a layer of nuts. You can place your thumb at the edge of the phyllo dough and hold it to the side of the pan to help keep it from squirming around. Once that one is brushed with butter, you’re home free.
- I’m here to tell you that if you try to cut through the pieces before the butter has set up, you will weep salty, bitter tears of regret. Remember the thing about the butter being glue? It’s the truth. It holds those layers that you painstakingly built together instead of going, “Meh!” when you dive into it with a knife. In short, don’t skip the 30 minute rest in the refrigerator before cutting and baking.
- Likewise, don’t think I’m being fussy and weird when I instruct you to remove a corner piece before pouring the syrup over your baked baklava. If you skip this step -and I speak from personal experience- you will watch in horror as the syrup boils (because it will when it hits that hot pan) and buckles your baklava as it tries to find a way under the pieces. This is another non-optional step. Unless you like deconstructed baklava, that is…
- If you’re at all concerned about the presence of bourbon in the Maple Bourbon Baklava, you needn’t be. Between boiling the syrup and the violent bubble up you’ll be watching when it’s poured over the baked baklava, there will be little to no alcohol left. It will have evaporated, leaving only its delicious smoky caramel flavour behind.
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Maple Bourbon Baklava
- 1 pound shelled pecans toasted
- 1/4 pound blanched almonds toasted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt only if using unsalted nuts
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter melted
- 1 package phyllo dough sheets thawed according to package instructions
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup preferably Grade B or Dark
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- the juice of 1/2 of a lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick broken into a couple of pieces
- Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are finely chopped and about the texture of grape nuts or slightly smaller. Transfer the nuts to a mixing bowl and mix in the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt (if using). Set aside.
- Position your phyllo sheets on a cutting board. Lay the 9-inch by 13-inch pan you'll be using on top of the phyllo to use as a template to trim the dough to the size of the pan. Take care not to press down on the pan, though, as that will compact the sheets of phyllo.
- Cover the phyllo with a slightly damp tea towel to keep it from drying out. Brush the bottom and sides of with the melted butter. Lay one sheet of the phyllo on the bottom of the pan, gently brush with butter, and repeat layering until you have a base of 8 sheets of buttered phyllo stacked up. Add 1/2 of the ground nut and spice mixture to the pan and spread it out evenly to the edges of the pan, then lay a sheet of phyllo over it then gently brush with butter. Repeat until you have 4 sheets of buttered phyllo stacked. Add the remaining ground nut mixture and spread to the edges of the pan. Gently drape a sheet of phyllo on top, brush with butter, and repeat until you have a stack of 8 sheets of buttered phyllo. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over the top and use the pastry brush to distribute it evenly.
- Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes to help the butter set up firmly.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and use a very sharp knife to cut the firmed up baklava five times lengthwise. This will give you five very long rectangles. Then turn your pan and cut across diagonally, creating triangle shapes. You can do as few as 8 diagonal cuts or as many as 12, depending on the size of the pieces you want your baklava to be when done.
- Bake the baklava for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and the edges of the phyllo along the sides of the pan and the cuts looks flaky.
To Prepare the Syrup while the Baklava Bakes:
- Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Drop the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened somewhat. Strain to remove the cinnamon stick pieces.
To Finish the Baklava:
- As soon as you've removed the Baklava from the oven, remove one little corner piece with a spoon and scoop out any nuts that have fallen into the pan in that section. Set the pan on a heat-proof, level counter top, and drizzle the syrup evenly over the baked baklava. Let stand at room temperature for several hours before serving.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.