Before I moved away from Minneapolis, my dear friend, Clarissa, and I had talked about starting this tradition of making baklava with the turn of the seasons. We made two in our time living close to one another. The first was a recipe passed down through her family, with walnuts, rosewater, and lemon, and the second was this one. In honor of my favorite kind of pie, we ground up pecans and mixed in chocolate chips and added bourbon to the syrup before pouring it over the pastry. The end result was a delightful reinvention of the familiar favorite…but the best part was getting to do this with one of my favorite people.
Pecan Pie Baklava
Fits one 9×13-inch pan
1 lb frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to package instructions
4 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3 1/2 cups raw pecans, ground or chopped until gravel-y
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Butter a 9×13-inch cake pan and set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together pecans, chocolate chips, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Keeping a damp towel handy, unroll one roll of phyllo dough (there should be two rolls of phyllo, each measuring half a pound). Place one layer of phyllo on the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover the rest of the phyllo with a damp towel while you use a pastry brush to gently paint the one layer of phyllo with melted butter. Repeat, layer by layer, with the rest of the half pound of phyllo. Gently sprinkle all of the nut filling over the phyllo, pressing it down afterward. Now is probably a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer the rest of the phyllo dough the same as you did before, one layer at a time, brushing each with melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes total, rotating halfway through.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine water, sugar, honey, bourbon, vanilla extract, and the cinnamon stick, if using. Bring the mixture to a bubble, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then reduce to simmer. Let thicken, about 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat.
Slice baklava diagonally to create diamonds, immediately after removing from the oven. Pour syrup evenly over the baklava. Let cool completely this way, so the syrup can make gooey and sweet every single layer. Keep covered at room temp, up to three days.