Growing up, one of our family favourites was Rétes (Hungarian Strudel) and my dear Mom made Hungarian delicacies like Káposztás Rétes (Savoury Cabbage Strudel) and Túrós Rétes (sweet Cottage Cheese Strudel) and even sometimes but not often, Almás Rétes (Apple Strudel). Mom’s favourite was Káposztás Rétes (Cabbage Strudel) and although as kids we couldn’t stand it, I often find myself craving the savoury flavours of this treat.
My dear Mom always told stories as she was cooking or baking, stories about food, of course! The one story that has resonated with me all these years is that Grandma (Nagymama) made her own Rétes dough! The story goes that Nagymama laid a clean, white sheet on the dining room table, dusted it with flour and stretched and stretched and stretched her homemade dough until you could read newsprint through it. I always imagined an enormous dough (like this) on the table! Mom never made strudel dough that I recall, by the time she was a homemaker, ready made, frozen dough was already available and so much easier than making it yourself. I have used ready made Phyllo more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes, but I’d never made it myself. So you can well imagine why homemade phyllo dough is on my bucket list.
Recently, we invited dear friends to the cottage and I thought homemade Baklava would be a lovely dessert over the weekend and a great excuse to make homemade phyllo dough. I chose Baklava because if the Phyllo didn’t work out as well, the syrup would ‘hide’ its flaws, unlike Rétes. The recipe I followed is here (why reinvent the wheel?) but I can tell you right now that using the pasta maker is not nearly as satisfying as rolling by hand. A marble rolling pin (or something really heavy) would be helpful…I had a rolling pin made by one of my dear Mom’s friends many years ago and I paid the price by bruising my palms and fingers!
Homemade Phyllo Dough
This recipe makes 25 sheets approx. 25 cm x 41 cm (10″ x 16″)
I allowed the dough to rest overnight.
The recipe instructions indicate to take the dough to #9 on the pasta maker (mine is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with attachments) but I recommend to take it to #8 and do the rest by hand. I also tried rolling it entirely by hand (see photos below – only took about 12 minutes each) and it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated but it did bruise my hands badly). Between each number of stretching the dough by pasta machine, keep rubbing a little flour to both sides of the flattened dough, this is how the correct texture is achieved. Believe me, you will know when you feel it.
I also found that rolling the dough through each pass on the pasta maker a couple of times instead of just once results in a finer dough.
- 17 (4-sheet) baklavas
- 11 (2-sheet) baklavas
- 4 left over sheets (freeze for later).
- 21 sheets of phyllo dough
- 120 g hazelnuts
- 200 g almonds
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/8 ground cloves
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- Roast both nuts on 163° C (325° F) for 18 minutes or until most of the skins have separated from the hazelnuts (almonds may or may not separate).
- Using a clean tea towel, rub the hot nuts until most of the skins come off. Separate skins from nuts.
- Chop both hazelnuts and almonds roughly and combine with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 cup honey
- 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Combine first three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stir well, set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 163° C (325° F).
- Divide the dough into 40 g dough portions.
- Lightly flour a large, clean surface and roll out to approximately 25 cm x 41 cm or 10″ x 16″ sheets. Continue to roll all of the dough like this until you have rolled it all out. Cover with a lightly damp cloth and a jelly roll pan to protect it from drying out.
- Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it length-wise in front of you. Brush generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the nut mixture per sheet. Continue for 2-3 sheets.
- Taking the long end, begin to roll the phyllo tightly. Brush the finished roll with melted butter.
- Cut into 5 cm or 2.5″ lengths (or smaller equal lengths). Place cut side up into a lightly buttered pan, it doesn’t matter if they touch. Continue until all the dough and nut mixture is exhausted.
- Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely and then pour the syrup over The rolls and allow to rest for a few hours.
This is quite a damp dough and it’s a bit sticky but don’t worry, you’ll be stretching and rolling additional flour into it to give it the correct wet/dry ratio.
The dough only becomes difficult to work with (breaking, cracking) when it dries out; make sure you have a lightly damp tea towel to cover any rolls or sheets. I also used a 10″ x 16″ jelly roll pan to cover it.
In hindsight, I should have used only 2 or 3 (not 4) sheets per roll. Next time I think I’ll sprinkle the nut mixture on each sheet and not just the end — I have adjusted the recipe above.
I was 100% sure I would not be making this recipe again because it’s so inexpensive to buy ready made, but in reviewing the ingredient list I may have to resort to making it myself as there is one or two ingredients that gross me out.