Baking In the Kitchen

Thanksgiving Desserts – Homemade Baklava and Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving Day is arguably one of our favorite days of the year. Why? Well we get to spend time with our family of course, and the FOOD! Food is so much fun. From researching recipes, going grocery shopping, prepping the food, making the recipes, then getting to eat them…it’s all a good time for us.

On Thanksgiving, our mom will cook the turkey and a lot of the sides, then the rest of the family brings a dish to share, pot-luck style. Since baking is our favorite, we always are given the task of dessert. 

This year we are baking a pumpkin pie and baklava.

Katie’s Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe

pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is the obvious choice for Thanksgiving, but that is because it’s just so yummy and nostalgic tasting. Not gonna to lie, Costco does a fantastic job with their pumpkin pie, and you can’t really beat $5.99. I have nothing against purchasing a pumpkin pie, but I bake it from scratch because I like to.

This recipe is nothing fancy. I use the fail-proof recipe you will find on the back of every Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin can with a couple tweaks, along with a homemade buttery crust. This recipe tastes best when completely chilled, so I will make this pie the day before, and chill it in the refrigerator until it’s time to dig in.


  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons of cold butter cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • ¼ cup cold water

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Sprinkle in the cubes of butter and use your fingers to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter pieces are about the size of a pea (don’t overwork the dough!).

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Slowly drizzle in the cold water, using your hands to stir the dough. Use just enough water for the dough to stick together (it should not be watery).

Shape your dough into a disk and wrap it with plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Dust your counter with flour and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 9” pie plate, then trim the edges leaving about ½ of overhang. Tuck the extra dough under itself, then take a fork and press down the edges.

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  • 1 can (15 oz) Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups of evaporated milk
  • ¾ cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

Mix together the sugar, and spices. Add the eggs and pumpkin, then slowly add in the evaporated milk. Pour the filling into your pie shell.

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Bake your pie at 425*F for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350*F and continue baking for another 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Cool on the counter for at least 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerator. Continue to chill the pie for a few more hours, then wrap with plastic wrap overnight (if you wrap your pie too soon, condensation will form making the crust soggy).

Right before serving, whip up some fresh whipping cream for serving.

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Whipping Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Dash of vanilla

For best results, chill a metal bowl and whisk/whisk attachment in your freezer for at least 10 minutes. This recipe can be made by hand, but if you have a stand mixer, your wrists will thank you. Pour all of the ingredients into the chilled bowl. Whisk the cream until it forms stiff peaks (this usually takes 4-7 minutes). Enjoy!

Side note: Our family always makes a big pot of coffee after finishing our huge meal. Adding a dollop of fresh whip creams makes for a delicious treat!

Kristen’s Homemade Baklava Recipe

baklava drawing

Five years ago, I had a random impulse that I needed to bake baklava for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why, as it was a treat that I had enjoyed only maybe twice in my life before that. It sounded like a challenge and a step away from our traditional desserts at Thanksgiving. Our family also really likes desserts with nuts in them, and if you know anything about baklava, it’s loaded with nuts. So I went to trusty Google to find a recipe. I picked a recipe from the Food Network and followed it to a T. The baklava turned out so delicious that I made it for Christmas a few weeks later. Since 2015, this has been my tradition to bring the Greek sweet to our holiday events. I have also since adjusted the recipe, so if you want to bake along, here we go!

Thanks to Food Network for the original recipe! You can see that here, but my tweaked version with lessons I have learned through the years is below.

Tips before you start

Lining the pan– Using parchment paper and line your pan, even up the sides! This aids in the removal of the pastry down the road and I can guarantee this step will make your life much easier.  

Phyllo dough– Buy this in the freezer section at the store next to the frozen pie dough. I searched high and low the first year I was going to make this. I have only been able to ever find it at a traditional grocery store like Safeway or QFC, but I am sure other places sell it. The night before you are going to bake, put the dough into the fridge for it to defrost. (One year, I thought that I needed to work with the dough frozen and it was an awful mistake. It crumbled into hundreds of tiny pieces and was terrible to work with. Don’t do what I do, thaw your dough properly & in advance!)  

The dough that I buy comes in 18 sheets measuring 13×17 inches each. When you are ready to assemble, unroll the dough and cut it down the middle so that you have 36 sheets that measure about 13x 8.5 inches each. They will fit perfectly into your 9×13 pan!

One last tip on the dough, keep a moist paper towel over the stack of unused dough as you work. It dries out extremely fast and you don’t want that.

Butter- When I say you need 4 sticks of butter, I mean it. You will use every last drop of the melted, golden goo. Don’t skimp. Some recipes say you can skip buttering a layer or two of the phyllo dough, but don’t be lazy. Make sure that every sheet of phyllo dough is getting buttered all the way up the edges! Some years, I have even had to melt a few extra tablespoons of butter to ensure every last inch was coated.

Pouring the Syrup– This part of the recipe terrified me the first time I made the dessert. The syrup is thin as water and the recipe told me to dump it over my labor-intensive pastry?! How could that end well?! …Well, it does! This part is the most fun of the whole recipe! You can hear the pastry crackling as the hot syrup hits it and all the layers float up, then they slowly settle back down over time. It is extremely satisfying to pour. And by morning, all of that sticky goodness is absorbed into every crack and crevice of phyllo dough and walnuts.

Is your mouth watering yet? Here are the ingredients you’ll need.


  • 4 sticks butter (1 lb), Melted
  • 1 1/4 lb walnuts, chopped very small
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz Crackers
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lb phyllo dough 


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 8 oz honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. This part is very important for easy removal later!

Chop your walnuts. I chop them pretty small but like to leave varying sizes. You do NOT want to chop your nuts into a powder though. Keep them small, but still large enough to give a nice texture. In a large bowl, mix together your nuts, crushed Ritz crackers, and cinnamon.

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Brush a little bit of butter under your parchment paper to act as glue, then a little bit more on top of the parchment paper, before laying your first sheet of phyllo dough down.

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Using your pastry brush, coat the entire surface of the phyllo dough with butter and layer on the next sheet of dough. Keep layering the dough, careful to butter every inch of each sheet, until you have 10 sheets of dough stacked up, with butter between each layer.

Sprinkle ¼ of the nut filling on top of the 10th sheet of dough. Proceed with layering 4 more sheets of phyllo dough (buttered between!) on top. Sprinkle another ¼ of the nut filling on top of the last 4 sheets. Repeat this process with 2 more layers of phyllo dough and nut mixture.

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Now that all your nut filling is in the baklava, layer the rest of the sheets of phyllo dough (you should have 10 sheets left), buttering each sheet, until you are out. Make sure to put a little extra butter on top!

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BEFORE baking, you need to cut your baklava into small diamond-shapes using an extremely sharp knife.

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Bake for about 1 hour on the lowest rack in your oven. You will know it’s done when the entire top sheet of phyllo dough is a rich golden color.

While your baklava bakes, you need to make the syrup and have it ready for your pastry’s exit of the oven. To do this, mix your sugar, honey, and water in a pot and bring this to a boil. Cook your syrup for another 10 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice. Take your syrup off of the heat and leave it at room temperature while the baklava finishes baking.

When your baklava is done, take it out of the oven and pour the warm syrup over the hot pastry. You will see the layers of dough float up, but don’t be alarmed, they will settle back down.

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(This is the hardest step) Wait. Once your baklava is cooled to room temperature (do not put it in the fridge for cooling, simply leave it on the counter and walk away) loosely cover it with plastic wrap and wait at least overnight before enjoying your dessert! The syrup needs to marry and soak into every crack and crevice of the pastry and this takes time. 

Serve & Enjoy!

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Serving Tip: After bringing this dessert to many holiday meals, I found it best to do the messy job of scooping the sticky sweets out ahead of time, instead of letting the guests get covered in syrup. Using the parchment paper to help lift the entire chunk of pastry out of the pan, I place it onto a cutting board. Re-cut the pieces, as they tend to glue together again with all the sugar and honey. Now scoop each diamond-shaped dessert into its own cupcake liner and place it on a platter. The cupcake liners allow people to easily grab baklava and they also allow you to arrange the baklava easily into a lovely display.