I’ll be honest, this one threw me for a loop right from the get-go. What was I going to do with the popcorn and the peanut butter? All I know is that Phyllo is good with Baklava, so figured, “ok, let’s start there.” It’s filled with nuts (so peanut butter should mix in ok) and the sweet potatoes can be a nice little layer, and then crumble popcorn in with pistachios on top and it should work.
It looked and smelled really good. Hey, anything that has a whole cup of butter and 2 cups of sugar in the mix isn’t going to be that bad. But, it was just ok. It does indeed taste 75% like Baklava and the upper layers completely mimicked the texture, but there was too strong a peanut flavor to it (and I only used 1/2 cup of peanut butter). I combined a cup of cooked sweet potatoes with the peanut butter thinking that would be a good idea and then spread them as a layer on the bottom. Added a pistachio/walnut mix with layers of phyllo. Unfortunately, the sweet potato/peanut butter mix made the dish more gooey than I would have liked, though the upper layers were “baklava perfect.” Popcorn was crumbled together with the pistachios and it was a cool looking topping.
Verdict? Husband: “EXTREMELY sweet,” “Strong Peanut butter taste – you know it’s there.” “Eh” overall response from him. Daughter: “Not bad, very sweet, love the top layers of the phyllo (why not? 8 layers covered in butter). She ate those layers and left the nut layers below. Me? I’d rather have made real baklava and left out the sweet potatoes and peanut butter. I ate a few squares but left the bottom mushy layer each time. The peanut butter was just too strong. Not my favorite of my dishes by far.
Recipe? I wasn’t sure if I would share it as I won’t make it again, but you can be the judge.
Sweet Potato/Peanut Butter Baklava with Popcorn Crumble
For the baklava:
- 1 lb. of chopped nuts (I used pistachios and walnuts)
- 1 lb of phyllo dough
- 1 cup of butter, melted
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 2 small sweet potatoes baked and cooled (about one cup mashed)
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 cup crumbled popcorn and 1/4 cup more crumbled pistachios for topping
For the syrup:
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set the oven to 350 degrees.
Thaw the phyllo dough according to manufacturer's directions (this may take overnight like it did me). When thawed, roll out the dough and cut the dough in half so the sheets will fit in the pan. Cover with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.
Chop all nuts into small pieces (I used my Pampered Chef Food Chopper). Combine with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. In another bowl, mix mashed sweet potatoes with the peanut butter together.
Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 7 more times until it is 8 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.
Spoon on a thin layer sweet potato/peanut butter mixture, the cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Then spoon a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 8 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered.
Cut into equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown, and edges appear slightly crisp.
While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, honey, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Garnish with some finely crushed pistachios of desired. Top with the popcorn and pistachio garnish.