Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baklava

I love Baklava.  It is a dessert I always get when I see it on a menu, but have never tried making.  Phyllo and I don't get along very well and all those buttery layers scare me.  But, I finally faced my fears and attempted a batch and am now wondering why I waited so long.


This is a dish that definitely requires patience, but once I got into the groove of it I actually found it rather therapeutic and calming to make.  How can you not relax and just enjoy life when painting with butter.  I also made sure I didn't rush when working with the Phyllo dough.  I allowed the dough to completely defrost before working with it and kept it covered with a damp cloth while working with it.  This helped ensure it didn't rip into tiny pieces while working with it, which has been the source of much frustration in the past.

While there aren't a lot of ingredients in Baklava - phyllo, nuts and simple syrup - the flavor can vary greatly depending on what nuts you choose to put in the filling and what type of honey you use in the syrup.

In order to love Baklava you have to be a nut lover.  There are some recipes that add chocolate pieces or dried fruit, but most of the recipes I came across contained just nuts.  Most recipes used a combination of different types, but some recipes use just one type.  I used a combination of walnuts, pecans and almonds with a few pistachios thrown in, but you can use any combination and it will be delicious.


The syrup which binds everything together is very simple - honey, sugar, water - but the flavor can vary greatly based on the type of honey used.  I get my honey from a small health food store that sells local honey.  It is a wonderfully delicious honey, but for me the real joy of this honey is watching the golden honey come out of a huge vat as they refill your container.  If you don't have access to local honey a lavender honey is a good option or you can use a regular honey and add some orange zest to the syrup.  Again you really can't make a bad choice when making the syrup.  And if you have to make numerous batches to decide on you favorite combination of nuts and syrup flavoring, that is a sacrifice worth making.


  • Baklava

    Ingredients 

    • 1 package Phyllo, thawed and at room temperature
    • 4 cups chopped nuts, lightly toasted (any combination - walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds)
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 2 sticks butter, melted
    • 2 cups honey
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 stick of butter
    • 2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • Instructions 

    1. Preheat oven to 350. Toss nuts and cinnamon together, set aside.
    2. Butter a 13x9 baking pan. Make sure the sheets of phyllo are about the same size as the pan, trim to size if needed. While working with phyllo only remove the sheet you immediately need, keep the rest covered in plastic with a damp cloth over it.
    3. Remove two sheets of phyllo, brush one sheet with melted butter and place in buttered dish butter side up. Grab two more sheets, brush one side with butter and place in pan butter side up. Repeat process one more time, for a total of six sheets of phyllo, three of which have been buttered. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top layer, add enough nuts to just barely cover the phyllo. Top with four more sheets of phyllo, using the same method of grabbing two sheets, brushing one side with butter and place in pan butter side up. Add another layer of nuts. Repeat process of stacking four layers of phyllo and one layer of nuts until all the nuts are used up, end with a buttered top.
    4. With a sharp knife cut a diagonal pattern in the baklava. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
    5. While the baklava is baking combine, honey, water, sugar, butter and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low.
    6. When baklava is done baking remove from oven then evenly drizzle the syrup over the top. Allow the baklava to rest at room temperature, uncovered for several hours to absorb the syrup and cool.
    7. While it is very hard to wait, it is very important to let the baklava rest. If you try and cut it too soon it will fall apart - trust me I speak from experience!