If you are a fellow lover of baklava, but want to make a vegan version, do try this recipe. It's a very rich sweet treat, perfect with black coffee, and while it will look and taste impressive, it's actually quite simple to make.
This version uses a spiced citrus syrup, which gives it a full depth of flavour. You can use lemons, oranges, tangerines, mandarins - whatever citrus you have in season - but as the recipe calls for lots of zest, make sure you have organic fruit so you can use the skin.
Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, you may need more or less sugar in the syrup. So start with a little, taste and add more until you get the perfect mix of tangy sweetness.
WALNUT & ALMOND CITRUS SPICED VEGAN BAKLAVA
We find that our lasagna dish is the perfect size for this dish. It's about 30 x 18 cm. But you can use any baking dish which has high sides to catch all the yummy syrup.
Store the baklava in the fridge, which will allow the flavours to develop, if you're not going to eat it straight away. Some people prefer it cold from the fridge, some prefer it at room temperature - it's up to you.
While baklava is traditionally made with honey as a sweetener, the brown rice syrup makes an almost identical tasting substitute, which is a vegan friendly alternative. I doubt most people could actually tell the difference in flavour, especially as this version of baklava is beautifully citrusy & spiced.
Refined versus unrefined coconut oil versus dairy butter.
Even when we were vegetarian (before becoming vegan) I used to use olive oil between the layers of phyllo pastry rather than butter, as it is less rich - and the general verdict amongst family and friends was that it tasted better. It's certainly a lot easier to make than having to melt butter too.
Subbing refined coconut oil in the nut filling instead of butter is an easy swap too, because the the oil whizzes up with the nuts so doesn't need to be melted first. The lack of flavour in the refined coconut oil allows the fresh nut flavours and rich spices to really shine through, while it also helps to make the pastry layers become light and crispy. It's important to use the refined, expeller pressed version of coconut oil in this dish, unless you adore the flavour of coconut - in which case you can use the unrefined version. (Contrary to what one may think when reading 'refined', in this case it isn't a less wholesome product, as expeller-pressed refined means the coconut oil has been filtered to remove the solid particles in the coconut oil which give it the strong taste and aroma. Now in some dishes, that's fine and actually a great thing (like curry) but in the case of delicate pastries, I prefer not to have that strong flavour. But I prefer to buy expeller-pressed refined coconut oil, which doesn't use bleach or chemicals to refine it, even though it is a little more expensive, because I'd rather use less, of better quality, and know that the family is eating well.
and the last word?
Delicious! That is all. Now go make it!