I've been pushing the boundaries of my culinary knowledge with my kitchen experiments this week, this has resulted in some successes but a lot of failures as well. This one, while not wildy imaginative, was incredibly delicious and if you can look past the butter, it's not terribly bad for you either.
Think of it as a less sweet, more tart and apply cousin to baklava. Each serving sized satchel is surrounded in flakey buttery phyllo while the bottom is saturated in honey. The tartness of the pomegranate, apples, and lemon cuts through the sweetness of the honey and while it's not the prettiest thing to look at, the crisp buttery phyllo makes the perfect edible wrapper.
I had envisioned this as part of my West Asian Thanksgiving dinner, but by the end of that meal I was so exhausted, I wasn't really in the mood to make that vision a reality, much less wrangle some unruly phyllo dough. Needless to say, this got nixed from the menu.
I know I'm always harping on people for using pre-made stuff, but even I have my limits and making paper thin sheets of dough that don't stick together is where I draw the line. Besides, handling pre-made phyllo is challenging enough. If you've never used it, don't let me scare you off. Here are some tips to get you started:
5 tips to make Phyllo pastries
- Make sure you get it from a store that goes through a lot of phyllo. I've noticed that when it gets old, the layers tend to stick together and that's just useless. Also, look for telltale signs of defrosting and refreezing like ice crystals on the box.
- Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. If you do it at room temperature it has a tendency to accumulate condensation which makes the dough stick together. Also if it's not defrosted all the way, you'll find it cracks and sticks.
- Make sure you leave your "stash" of unused phyllo covered in moist (not wet) paper towels. Otherwise the phyllo will dry out and crack when you try to work with it.
- When you're handling it be gentle and patient, the layers may stick a little, but with a little persistence you can usually get the sheets apart more or less intact. Since most recipes (including this one) call for layering the phyllo it's not the end of the world if you have a few holes or tears.
- Don't over-butter the layers. While it's tempting to "paint" on the butter, like a coat of shellac you'll end up with greasy phyllo if you go overboard. Get just enough butter on there so the layers adhere. I've found that using a dabbing motion with an almost dry brush works pretty well at getting just the right amount of butter on there.
What's your favourite phyllo dessert?
- Seed the pomegranate into a bowl. Peel and slice the apples and add them to the bowl. Toss with lemon juice, honey and cinnamon and leave for a about 5 minutes for some liquid to come out of the apples. Dissolve the the arrowroot starch in the liquid at the bottom of the bowl making sure there are no clumps.
- Move the oven rack to the lower middle position and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush some melted butter on the inside of a 9x9 baking pan.
- Lay down a sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface, dab a very light coating of melted butter all over the sheet with a pastry brush. Top with another sheet of phyllo dough. Dab a very light coating of melted butter on top of this sheet, then fold the sheet in half (your dough should now be 4 layers thick).
- Slice the layered dough in half then lightly butter around the edges of each sheet. Place about 1/3 cup of apples and pomegranate seeds in the middle of each sheet. Do no put any of the liquid in the bottom of the bowl in yet as it will make the phyllo tear like wet paper (we'll use it later).
- Gather up the corners of the dough and pinch together at the top to make little satchels. Place in the buttered pan then repeat 3 more times (for a total of 8 satchels) or until you run out of apples. Brush the remaining butter onto the tops of your satchels.
- Put the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven then pour the honey apple liquid on top of the pastries, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes to caramelize.
- Give it 10 minutes to cool and serve. These are best served when you make them.