I've always loved baklava, and it's one of those things that a) is a siren song for me now that I'm vegan and b) is even more of a siren song because it's about as far from low GI as you can get.
So with this version of baklava, created from several recipes I looked up on the interwebs and in my cookbooks at home, I veganized and attempted to make it as low GI as possible. Still needs some refining, but I was pretty happy with it.
Using phyllo pastry can be a little daunting, as it is so fine and fragile. But as long as you keep it covered in a damp cloth, have all of your workspace organised so you're not handling it for too long, and handle it gently and quickly, it should be fine. Some of it will tear, but don't panic - it's all going to be baked and then soaked in syrup, so any tears will be well and truly hidden!!
I replaced most of the melted "butter" (Nuttelex) with applesauce in this recipe - every sheet of pastry is brushed with butter, giving a very high fat content. I decided on applesauce because you can use it as an oil substitute, and the role of the butter is to add moisture to the pastry, and a little flavour. I also thought that using applesauce would mean that I could cut down on the amount of sugar used in the syrup.
I also used rosewater in the syrup, but have decided that it's an either/or situation. Either use agave nectar to give that "honey" taste, or use rosewater - but not both!! Too intense a flavour. However, if you want to use rosewater, it adds a lovely aroma and taste.
1 packet phyllo pastry, thawed overnight (you'll use about 2/3 of the packet - and yay! Phyllo is generally vegan!!)
2 cups mixed raw nuts, crushed (I used walnuts and almonds - couldn't find any raw pistachios, which are traditional)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
nutmeg to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup Nuttelex, melted
1 to 2 cups applesauce
1/2 to 1 cup vegan sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 to 1/2 cups water
1/2 tablespoon rosewater (optional)
You really need a disposable baking dish for these - just for the ease of transport and serving. I used the Glad BBQ trays (square) and they were the perfect shape for the phyllo, once it was sliced in half. I don't generally advocate using once-off products, but these were awesome for the baklava.
Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees celcius.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the nuts, cinnamon and sugar.
Wet a clean teatowel, and squeeze it out so that it is damp but not dripping. Roll out your phyllo pastry and carefully slice in half - to the size of the tray you're using. Cover with the damp teatowel.
Using a pastry brush, cover the baking tray in melted Nuttelex. Grab your first piece of phyllo pastry (gently) and place it in the baking tray. Brush with melted Nuttelex. Repeat this process for about six to eight pieces of pastry.
Sprinkle an even layer of the nuts onto the phyllo. Carefully cover with another piece of pastry. This time, instead of the Nuttelex, brush with applesauce. Repeat this process for about four to six pieces of pastry. Add another layer of nuts, and repeat until the tray is three quarters full (the pastry will puff up during baking) or until you run out of nuts!!
Reverting back to melted Nuttelex, place and brush eight pieces of pastry to top the baklava. Generously brush the top with the Nuttelex, as this will make the top brown and shiny.
Taking a sharp knife, cut your baklava into shapes - you must do this before baking, because it will be impossible afterwards!! I did a basic triangle shape.
Place into your preheated oven, and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is all brown and pulling upwards.
Whilst the baklava is cooking, mix all of the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, and boil for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove any froth from the top, and set aside to cool.
When the baklava is cooked, remove from the oven, and pour the syrup on immediately. Allow the baklava to completely cool, and then serve to eager friends!!
(This is baklava with my middle eastern inspired tart, the recipe of which will be in my next post)