“Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear!”
Empire Records, circa 1995
That happens to me a lot. I was in the car driving back from the grocery store the other day trying to figure out what to do about some sort of pizza snack/appetizer/mini-something-or-other. I was thinking about how to get it flaky with thin layers and then BAM! It hit me! Pizza baklava!!! It all happened so fast, I couldn’t think about anything else. I know, I know, you’re probably like “Hold the phone, ML. What are you talking about? Pizza baklava? What does that even mean??” I’ll tell you what it means. It means the delicious ingredients of pizza layered between flaky sheets of buttery phyllo dough, that’s what it means.
A few years ago I invented one of my most brilliant inventions (if I do say so myself), Buckeye Baklava. It’s not your typical baklava. No, instead it’s inspired by the beloved peanut butter and chocolate confectionary delicacy native to the exotic land of Ohio. I’ll divulge full details in a blog post another day, but the point of this little story is that embarking on the Buckeye Baklava adventure opened up a new world for me. Baklava is a vehicle that could take me to new and fascinating places. I was full of ideas! I was inspired! But you know what? I was also tired! Baklava takes awhile, man. It’s not hard but it’s definitely not fast. Especially when you’re making it by yourself. So I just never got around to doing all my fancy new baklavas. UNTIL NOW.
What I did discover is that if I rope George into the making process with me, it goes MUCH faster. Luckily, since he’s so gung-ho on whatever my baklava adventures are at the time, he’s always game to help. I can get the filling ready while he butters the phyllo layers. So of course, this pizza baklava was the perfect opportunity for some kitchen-time-togetherness. Awww, isn’t that just sweet??
So let’s talk about this. Pizza baklava version 1.0 consists of pepperoni and sausage. There’s no point in calling it “pizza” if I’m not going classic for the first test, amiright? I used cubed pepperoni chunks instead of slices to replicate the texture of the typical nut filling more closely. Some caramelized onions add a lovely sweetness to the mixture. Baklava calls for the buttering of every sheet of phyllo dough, but doesn’t this sound like a perfect opportunity for olive oil as well? How about some garlic-infused olive oil mixed with some melted butter? Can I get an AMEN! Also, let’s class it up a little bit with some fresh herbs. My sauce already had a slew of dried basil and oregano, so there was no point in duplicating that effort. Fresh, however, would be a lovely addition to the flavor as well as a garnish.
The ingredients are all pretty basic, so using good quality items is what will make a difference! I started making my own pasta sauce a few months ago so I used that for the baklava. However, store-bought will be just fine. I also had problems finding pepperoni chunks, oddly enough, so I had my deli man slice some ridiculously thick slices (1/4″) of deli-sized pepperoni. Seriously, you’d think I was making pepperoni burger patties.
::: PIZZA BAKLAVA :::
Garlic-Infused Olive Oil & Butter:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half
3/4 lb (12 oz) pepperoni (in cube/chunk form)
3/4 lb (12 oz) ground italian sausage, uncooked
*Note: Amount of cooked italian sausage needed is 1/2 lb, or 8 oz
12 basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 springs of oregano, leaves chopped
3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
18 sheets phyllo dough (Usually a standard sized box comes with two rolls. This would be one of those rolls.)
1 1/2 cups sauce (separate from sauce mentioned above)
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. In saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, butter, and garlic cloves. Bring to a very gentle simmer, then lower heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing garlic cloves to infuse their flavor into the butter/oil mixture. Do not let garlic cloves burn. Strain into bowl, removing the garlic. Let cool.
2. Chop shallots, then cook over low-medium heat with 2 tbsp butter and pinch of kosher salt. Cook slowly, stirring every few minutes. You want them to become a glorious golden brown. The whole process probably takes 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime…
3. Cook the ground sausage in a skillet, chopping it to fine pieces.
4. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients (pepperoni, cooked sausage, cheeses, fresh herbs, and sauce).
5. In 13″ x 9″ pan sprayed with non-stick spray, start layering phyllo dough. Place a layer in the pan, then brush with the garlic butter/oil mixture. Then place another layer of phyllo down, then brush with butter. On the THIRD LAYER, brush with the butter/oil and then with a thin layer of pizza sauce. Do this again until you reach the sixth layer.
** NOTE: See structural diagram below for visual! **
6. After you cover layer #6 with oil and sauce, scoop out half of the filling on top and spread over the dough evenly. Sprinkle half of mozzarella cheese on top.
7. Commence layering process. 1 – butter – 2 – butter – 3 – butter – sauce – 4 – butter – 5 – butter – 6 – butter – sauce – rest of filling – rest of mozzarella.
8. Add the last layers of phyllo! Spread top layer with—can you guess?—butter/oil mixture.
9. Grab a sharp knife (carefully, please), and cut this amazing structure into pieces. We cut 15 slices out of it, but you could easily make them smaller to yield more.
10. Bake at 350° in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, rotating half-way through.
11. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Re-cut your pieces. Let oozy greasy cheesiness calm down a bit before removing from the pan, but you do want to serve this warm! (I’m going to be really real with you though—the microwave will reheat these things just fine.)
12. Serve to a hungry crowd!
HIGHLY TECHNICAL STRUCTURAL DIAGRAM