In theory, baklava cupcakes are a good idea, and I’m sure with some trying, they will come out better than they did on this attempt. We’re lucky to live around the corner from Nazareth Sweets, which aside from having a name that makes me think of church, is surely in my top-5 list for best bakeries in Chicago. If you walk in with $5 you will walk out with more honey-and-nut-filled pastries than you know what to do with. Sweet little donuts? Yes. Pistachio-filled bird’s nest? Yes. Red thing that Tony and I are scared of but still kind of want to eat? Yes. But the shining star is, of course, baklava. Flakey, honey-soaked and virtually transcendent – it’s the pastry I turned my nose up at as a child and only now, as a grown-ass woman, truly understand the power and the glory of. Amen.

It was actually Tony, who usually rolls his eyes when I suggest making anything besides Julie Hasson’s chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, who suggested it. When I protested that one of baklava’s best qualities is the flakey phyllo dough, he countered with the suggestion that I bake phyllo dough in a muffin pan, then make the cupcakes, unwrap them, and place them into the crispy, edible wrapper. Genius! And of course they had to be unfrosted honey and cinnamon cakes, with a touch of lemon zest, drizzled with honey and topped with chopped pistachios. Of course, of course.

For what reason I cannot tell you, we decided NOT to go to any of the 50 bazillion Middle Eastern grocers around our house, but instead to stupid, awful Jewel-Osco. And it was there, in that black hole of processed foods and non-woven polypropylene “eco-friendly” shopping bags that I pulled a totally boner move. Instead of buying phyllo sheets, I thought I would be smart and buy little pre-made phyllo cups. I know they’re small, because my mom makes this delicious tomato thing in them and I can eat 5000 of those. Mini baklava cupcakes! Yes! I am the smartest idiot in this whole grocery store!

Tony suggested dropping one whole pistachio in each unbaked cupcake… just for fun, I guess. And I did. Once the mini cupcakes were baked and cooled I realized they were still far too big for the pre-made phyllo cups and I had to butcher them to make them fit. Topping them with expensive Middle Eastern honey (that I DID go to a proper grocery store for) and chopped pistachios was basically lipstick on a pig. The individual pieces tasted good – really good – but together they were a crunchy, sticky let down. We ended up shoveling unfrosted cakes and phyllo cups filled with honey and pistachios into our mouths and called it a day.

I figured I’d post the recipe because it’s still a good one, and with a little rearranging, and far less laziness, I’m sure you can make it work.

For the cupcakes you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon course salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs good-quality honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

To top them you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup good-quality honey
  • 3/4 cups chopped pistachios

And of course:

  • Phyllo dough

Then you:

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a mini cupcake pan with shortening. (You can also use paper liners if you feel like peeling, and if you’d like to make full-sized cupcakes, line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease it.) In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Whisk all of the wet ingredients together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix just until blended, do not over mix. Bake mini cupcakes for about 10 minutes, full-sized for about 20, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.

While those are cooling, you can either warm up your pre-made mini shells or grease another muffin pan and get to work forming phyllo shells. Just follow the directions on the box, there will be much butter and cursing involved.

Plunk the cakes into the shells and top with honey and nuts.

Oh! Teno, Milo and I made vegan pancake cupcakes this week, so if you’re interested, I’ll post the recipe.