Baklava

June 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

I used to dream about baklava when I was a kid. It was the sort of thing that we got once a year for Christmas. When the store that sold the holiday baklava boxes closed we were left without baklava for a long time. There were no Mediterranean restaurants in Nicaragua, none that I knew of at least, so we couldn’t get it anywhere else. During the one time of the year that we had guests from the states, Thanksgiving, we always had other requests aside from baklava. There was only so much room in their carry-on luggage and when the choice was between a bag of chocolate chips (it is true, for several years in Nicarauga you couldn’t buy chocolate chips anywhere–very sad times) and box of baklava, we had to choose the chocolate.

Now that I surrounded by so much of everything I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw baklava next to the check out at a little local market. Until then I had forgotten about baklava, it had been that long. I eagerly bought two pieces, one for me and one for my boyfriend, Sam. As he eyed his piece suspiciously I chomped into mine. It was sticky, flaky, sweet and kind of stale but aside from the stale it was good. So when I saw phyllo dough for sale at the grocery store a couple weeks later I bought some with the intention of trying to make it myself. That was over 6 months ago. Times slips away from you, and the weekend you meant to make baklava becomes the weekend you make chocolate mousse instead. A couple of days ago as I was digging through the depths of my freezer I saw the somewhat crushed box of phyllo dough, this time I knew I had to make the baklava before I got distracted by something else. Of course I did get distracted but this time only for a few days and not for a few months, and alas baklava has been made.

Even if you don’t like baklava I recommend that you make it just for the amazing aroma that will fill your house. I can still smell it now and we baked our baklava 6 hours ago. Sam is one typically averse to any type of nut, yet he seemed quite fond of these. I feel quite proud of that. Who knows maybe your distaste for nuts can change with this one recipe.

Scared of working with phyllo dough? Don’t stress, it’s not so bad. My cracked along the way, but I just patched it back up with some butter. The more cracks, the better the texture will be. If only more of our problems in life could be fixed with butter.

Baklava

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

Baklava:
1 lb. of chopped nuts (I used walnuts because its what I had, but the website recommended a combination of nuts)
1 lb of phyllo dough
1 cup of butter, melted
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Syrup:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick

Directions

Lightly grease a 9×13 pan and set the oven to 350°F.

Thaw the phyllo dough according to manufacturer’s directions (this may take overnight). 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 the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with sugar, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 5-7 more times until it is 6- 8* sheets thick, each sheet being “painted” with the butter. Spoon several tablespoons of the nut mixture onto the dough. 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 6-8 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Cut into 24 equal sized squares* using a sharp knife. Only cut half of the way down, do not hit the bottom or else the syrup will just leak out once you pour it in later. Bake at 350°F for  about 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.

Notes:

* I had less than a pound of phyllo dough, so I made my bottom layer and top layer six sheets thick and it worked out just fine.

* Also, I didn’t cut it into 24 pieces, I just cut them into the size I thought was appropriate.

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