Anyone that has shared a meal with me knows that I am deathly allergic to tree nuts. You will not find any dishes on Western Hippie Cooks that contain tree nuts. You will, however, find plenty of recipes that contain seeds. They are my “go-to” nut substitute. I love sesame and sunflower seeds. They allow me to experience that “nutty” flavor – without the trip to the hospital.
I recently served this beautiful dessert at a dinner party. No one missed the nuts.
This recipe is simple to prepare, but takes time…so start with the yogurt. I take a 24 ounce container of full fat Greek honey yogurt and empty it into a mesh strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth and placed over a bowl. You can find cheesecloth in the cookware section of most grocery stores.
Let this sit in the refrigerator overnight – you will be amazed at what happens. The result is thick and “ice cream scoop-able”. This will be served on the side once the dessert is plated.
Now to assemble the baklava. Preheat the oven to 350 F. I start with store bought phyllo dough. This is in the freezer section of your grocery store. Thaw it out according to the instructions on the box. Phyllo dough dries out quickly, so once it is out of the plastic, cover with a clean, damp dishtowel. Choose a baking pan or cookie tray with sides – I am using a 9×13 baking pan. Toss two cups of shelled, salted and roasted sunflower seeds with 3 tablespoons of sugar. You can leave the seeds whole or pulse them in a food processor to get the chopped nut effect. Melt two sticks of butter to use in layering the pastry and sunflower seeds. Take a pastry brush and coat the bottom of the pan so the first layer won’t stick. Lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter – layer and brush a total of 10 sheets of phyllo.
Now pour half of the sugar dusted sunflower seeds over the buttered 10 layers – spread out evenly.
Cover with another 5 layers of individually buttered sheets of phyllo. Pour and spread out the remaining sunflowers seeds. Then top with another 10 buttered sheets of phyllo. Tuck the edges in as you layer so no dry edges remain. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cut diagonally into diamond shaped pieces. Return the baklava to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden – don’t let it get too dark.
While the baklava bakes empty an 18 ounce jar of apricot preserves into a saucepan. Add one cup of water and bring it too a rapid boil. Let this reduce a bit and thicken – maybe 5 minutes. Most baklava recipes call for a combination of honey, sugar and water. I find it to be far too cloying and super sweet. So I came up with the idea of using apricot preserves adding the sweetness, but a little tart apricot flavor as well.
Remove the pan from the oven and pour the hot apricot sauce evenly over the baklava. Using a butter knife, outline the cuts again so the sauce gets fully incorporated. Cover with plastic and let sit overnight.
When it’s time to serve – place a few pieces on a plate and scoop the honey yogurt using two teaspoons dipped in hot water.
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