The old trope about needing something like you need a hole in the head seems fitting.

Elisabeth Johansson’s ​”Chocolate: 90 Sinful and Sumptuous Indulgences” recently made its way into my plus-sized life, and I’m not nearly as sorry as I should be. I almost turned it down. I love to bake, but have love handles – as well as lots of cookbooks, including no fewer than four devoted to chocolate. Enough, right?

I thought so too, but we’re both oh so very wrong. Because, you see, none of the others has a recipe for chocolate baklava.

Johansson, a pastry chef from Sweden, opens “Chocolate” with a discussion of cacao, continuing through definitions of various types of chocolate. She offers advice on molding, as well as the tricky process of tempering.

But captivated by that bohemian baklava, I decided to test-drive a batch and take it, as I often do with my baking attempts, to work.

The baklava came together quickly and easily, thanks to a clear, concise recipe. I thought it made an awful lot of filling, and wondered if there were less filling but a tad more honey drizzle, the end result might read a little more baklava and a little less brownie/baklava “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” mashup.


But I was alone in that critique; comments were overwhelmingly positive. A woman with a very discerning palate said the fact that it wasn’t as sweet as its more traditional, honey-heavy Greek cousin was actually a relief. Others appreciated its underlying almond notes and crunchy phyllo layers. One guy I’ve worked with for more than a decade said the baklava was the best thing I’d ever brought in.

Which sent me back to the book, lingering over glossy glamour photographs of mousse cake with coffee and chocolate, chocolate cremè brûlée and truffles. I have a packet of cacao nibs burning a hole in my pantry and if need be, more forgiving clothes in my closet. Welcome, chocolate cookbook No. 5.



You’ll need a scale to make this recipe, as Johansson gives measurements by weights. You’ll also need a candy thermometer. Makes 1 pan, 24 pieces



5 ounces walnut halves

4 ounces shelled pistachios

7 ounces dark chocolate (64-70 percent) or chocolate chips

7 ounces almond paste

60 grams (about 4 tablespoons) room-temperature butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar


2 teaspoons vanilla sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cacao powder


100 grams (about 7 tablespoons) butter, melted

15 sheets of phyllo dough, preferably Greek, preferably 9 by 13 inches in diameter


1/2 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons honey


Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon or orange

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Finely chop the walnuts and pistachios by hand or in a food processor. Set aside. Chop the chocolate. Grate the almond paste and put it into a bowl. Add the 4 tablespoons butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and eggs and mix until combined and smooth. Stir the flour, nuts and chopped chocolate into the batter along with the cacao powder until combined.

Brush the bottom of an 8- by 12-inch cake pan with melted butter and line with a sheet of phyllo dough. Brush 4 more sheets of phyllo dough with melted butter and layer them in the bottom of the pan. Spread two-thirds of the nut filling over the dough. Continue by brushing and layering another five sheets of phyllo dough. Spread the remaining one-third of the nut mixture on top. Complete with a final 5 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing all the layers, including the surface of the topmost layer, with butter. Using a sharp knife, score the top layer into squares about 2 inches in diameter. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the baklava is light golden brown.

Make the honey drizzle by blending all the ingredients in a pot and boiling until it reaches 225 degrees F. Strain. When the baklava has cooled, pour the syrup gently over the top and let stand until liquid is absorbed before slicing.

Comments are no longer available on this story