Vegan baklava with pistachio ice cream

Baklava is one of my absolute favorite Middle Eastern desserts. Layers of flaky phyllo(or spelled filo as well, but same thing), with a toffee-like filling of caramelized nuts, and a delicious spiced syrup that soaks through everything and really brings it together. The really cool thing, for me anyways, about Middle Eastern desserts is the need to soak them all in syrup. Knafeh, baklava, semolina cake, they all require it, and it makes a world of difference, honestly. Now onto the topic of phyllo/filo pastry. It is like the Mediterranean cousin of puff pastry. The Greeks, Albanians, Montenegrins(which is the method I learned to make it from), the Turkish, and the Middle East all use it. And it’s not that hard to make either! I love making phyllo from scratch, just because it’s so gratifying to roll it out and watch the dough puff up and get super nice and flaky.

Now for this recipe, I already mentioned it was vegan. Honestly, baklava isn’t that hard to make vegan. The only non-vegan things in it are butter for brushing between the phyllo pastry, which you can sub out with olive oil(no-brainer there), and the honey that goes into the soaking syrup, which you can easily just replace with a simple syrup of any kind(obviously so long as it’s vegan-friendly, unless you’re not vegan, in which case why are you even looking at this recipe, when you can be referring to this one?). So to add a little bit more of a challenge to it, I included a vegan olive oil-pistachio ice cream, just so that you know I’m not just trying to cop out and make something that was 98% the way to being vegan a fully vegan product. What? I don’t like getting called out for things I’m already well aware of. With the pistachio ice cream, I’m making essentially a milk out of them, and turning that into the ice cream itself.

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For the olive oil-pistachio ice cream:
1 cup pistachios
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon spirulina powder
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Braise down the pistachios in 1 cup of water first until water is cooked down by half. Puree together the pistachios with both the water you cooked them in and the remaining water. Strain into a pot. Whisk in olive oil, cornstarch, spices, and spirulina. Whisk on medium-high heat until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. Take off heat and whisk in the vanilla. Cool down to at least room temperature. Churn in an ice cream machine, following its instructions, before transferring to the freezer to set for at least 1 hour.

For the phyllo:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + more for rolling
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
granulated sugar
olive oil

Combine salt, water, and flour together to form a dough. Dust the dough with flour and separate into 12 individual balls. Roll each out on a floured surface to be about 5 inches in diameter. Make three stacks of four. Brush olive oil and sugar onto the tops of three of the four disks of dough in each stack before pressing them together. Roll each stack out to cover a quarter sheet pan. Brush the tops of your now-rolled out layers with olive oil as well. Between each layer of dough, sprinkle in about half of your filling before placing on the next layer(you will have three layers of dough, two layers of filling). Trim any excess and pre-cut the pastry so that you have rectangles of the baklava(you want to do this to allow more hot air into the pan during baking, as well as to allow more simple syrup to sink into the pastry after baking). Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. While still warm, pour in the simple syrup and allow that to soak into the pastry.

For the filling:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Mix together.

For the simple syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon rose water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
a pinch of salt

Bring everything to a simmer until sugar is dissolved. Pour over the warm baklava to finish.

To garnish:
Ground pistachios

Place down a slice of the baklava and garnish with some pistachios on top. On the side, place down some pistachios and top with a quenelle of the ice cream.

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