By Ashley Powell
Several weeks ago, at one of our Friday Farm Sales, two young women told me about using Maitake in Baklava. At first I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it – mushrooms in a dessert that is already perfect? They insisted it was amazing.
Fast forward to the Sonoma County Herb Association and Exchange’s Gala Auction. They just so happened to want some Maitake Frondosa for – you guessed it – Maitake Baklava (aka Maitaklava!). From there we connected with the chef, Karen Aguiar, an herbal medicine maker who has taught medicine making at the California School of Herbal Studies since 1998. Karen was kind enough to share the recipe with us. I had to try it.
Now this recipe may look intimidating but I’ll tell you right now, if I can do it, anyone can.
You may notice when reading the recipe that you can either use orange juice or flambé with orange liquor. Now, as a relatively inexperienced baker whose talent starts with chocolate chip cookies and ends with banana bread I, of course, chose the flambé option.
I chopped the Maitake, measured my ingredients, and made sure my phyllo dough was adequately defrosted. I was ready to go. At that moment, I finally realized that, hey, flambéing essentially means that you will be setting fire to what you are cooking.
I was not successful on the first try.
Luckily, you make the filling in three batches with this recipe. Batches two and three went up in flames (in a good way) with the help of this YouTube video: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2vcHyuJlPM. The key concept is that you aren’t lighting the liquid alcohol itself, you are lighting the fumes of the alcohol.
I recommend having your ingredients for each batch of filling pre-measured (honey, orange juice or liqueur, and spices) and ready to go. This made it much easier to time my cooking rather than trying to measure on the fly.
If you decide to flambé, always remember safety first! Have a metal lid that can cover your pan nearby in case you need to smother the flames.
Don’t cook down your filling too much – you want the mixture to soak through the layers of phyllo and if it is overly cooked down you risk your dessert being dry. Once you’re done with your filling, let it cool and start chopping your walnuts. You’ll want as finely chopped as you can get them as you will be making multiple layers of phyllo, butter and walnuts.
The phyllo dough I used for this recipe was smaller in size than the recommended brand and, rather than fitting one sheet to the pan, I laid out two side by side and trimmed off the excess. The first couple layers were more so a terrible collage of strips of phyllo dough cut to try and fill awkward spaces, but eventually my brain started working and I got to the two-sheet side-by-side method.
Assembly is straightforward, two layers of phyllo, butter, a light dusting of walnuts and repeat. Midway through spread the Maitake mixture evenly across the phyllo. You can reference the shot of the final layer to get an idea on the amount of walnuts you should be spreading each time. Don’t forget to drizzle the top with your remaining honey.
Once done I cut the assembled Maitaklava into small rectangles, then cut each rectangle diagonally. You will need a sharp knife for this. A pizza cutter will not save you time, though it will result in reassembling the top layer of the dessert you just painstakingly assembled. Learn from my mistakes.
Hiccups aside, it came out beautifully! You may be tempted to take a bite as soon as it comes out of the oven, resist. For the full flavor, you want it to sit for several hours; the filling soaks through the dough and the taste becomes phenomenal.
If you are looking for a dessert to impress, this is it. The cinnamon, cardamom, and honey turn the Maitake into a savory-sweet masterpiece. Once you get your groove going it is fairly simple to make, even with the flambé. It was a hit with everyone here at the California Farm (sorry Michigan Team!) and we are already talking about how we can incorporate it into future events.
Take a look at the original recipe below and try it out yourself!
Interested in learning more about the California School of Herbal Studies? Check out their website here: http://www.cshs.com/index.html
MAITAKE MUSHROOM DESSERT – “MAITAKLAVA”
Original recipe by Karen Aguiar
- 3 lbs. fresh Maitake Frondosa mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms, chop into ¼” pieces.
- 2 c. honey, plus ¼ c. to drizzle on final layer
- 3 c. finely chopped walnuts
- Unsalted butter, 3 Tbsp. to cook, plus 2 sticks for the phyllo dough
- 3 tsp. of powdered cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp. powdered cardamom
- 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¾ of orange juice or orange liquor
- 3 tsp. of vanilla extract
- One box of organic whole wheat phyllo dough sheets, follow instructions on box so phyllo dough is defrosted and brought to room temperature.
Divide chopped Maitake mushroom into 3 batches. Sauté batches separately for best results, do not crowd the pan or mushrooms will end up steaming and not browning.
For each batch of chopped Maitake mushroom filling:
- In a cast iron pan, sauté chopped Maitake in 1 Tbsp. of butter on high heat until brown around the edges.
- Drizzle 1/2 c. of honey over cooked mushrooms coating pieces well.
- Add orange juice or flambé with orange liquor.
- Add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt, 1 tsp of Cinnamon, and ½ tsp of Cardamom.
- Add a 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.
- Cook for a little longer for flavors to meld and to cook off any alcohol.
- Sauté the remaining batches of Maitake, combining all batches in a bowl. Let cool before proceeding.
The original recipe uses whole wheat phyllo pastry dough sheets by the Fillo Factory (13”x18” sheets) 1 lb. box, 18 sheets of dough.
If you use smaller sized phyllo you may need more sheets to cover the entire pan.
- Unroll dough flat. Divide the number of sheets of phyllo dough in half.
- On a full-sized baker’s sheet pan, lay 2 sheets of dough down and paint with melted butter.
- Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.
- Continue layering the first 8 sheets, interspersed with melted butter and walnuts every two sheets.
- After the first 8 sheets, spread the Maitaklava filling, evenly, and follow with the remaining sheets, two at a time, painting with butter and sprinkling with finely chopped walnuts until no sheets remain.
- On the final, top layer of phyllo dough, paint with melted butter, sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts, and drizzle with honey.
- Using a sharp knife, cutting all the way to the bottom layer, cut Maitaklava into equal rectangles, then cut each piece in half diagonally.
- Bake at 350 degrees F, for 45 minutes, until top layer is browned.
Optional: add 1 cup of raisins or chopped apples and sauté with the Maitake. Or candied ginger, maybe use rosewater instead of orange juice or orange liquor…