May 1, 2012
What are your favorite desserts? It's hard to choose just one dessert, right? Well, baklava is on my list of favorite desserts, so I am very excited to share this recipe with all of you. This flavorful combination of nuts, spices, honey, and phyllo is just yummy. Baklava, bak-luv-ya.
With a father as a physician, my family often received wonderful sweet treats during the Christmas season from my father's generous patients. Between my family's annual Christmas baking and treats from patients, my parents' home turns into a real-life Gingerbread house during the Christmas season. One of my father's patients would always send an incredible platter of baklava from a Los Angeles Greek bakery. It was always a happier day when my dad would walk into the door with that baklava platter!
When I visited Istanbul on a trip to the Mediterranean, I'm pretty sure that every meal (including breakfast) ended with baklava. Hey, it's not everyday that you can enjoy authentic Turkish baklava for breakfast, right? (Baklava varies by country. Turkish baklava is traditionally made with pistachios.)
Since my Med trip, I have enjoyed Greek food even more; the fresh flavors and spice combinations are so unique. Though there is a great Greek restaurant (with delicious baklava) just walking distance from my house, I have been eager to learn more Greek recipes. On my search for finding authentic good Greek recipes, I came across a wonderful Greek food blog, Seemingly Greek, and have learned many great tips on Greek cooking (and now want to try nearly every recipe).
While delicious, the thin and delicate nature of phyllo dough can scare off even seasoned cooks. But, do not fear! It's not scary stuff. As long as you work quickly, using phyllo dough is easier than you think. If you tear a sheet, you'll have plenty of phyllo left over to replace. Keeping a damp towel on the phyllo also keeps it from breaking. Give it a try, you'll be surprised, and you'll get instant "master chef" status with friends! ;-)
Baklava was very quick and simple to make. It was faster and less work than making cupcakes! My only mistake of forgetting to thaw the phyllo. Uber-guru Alton Brown to the rescue: on a past episode of Good Eats (click here for the YouTube video), Alton Brown shared his method of taking the phyllo from freezer to prep counter in less than a minute. If you need to thaw rolls of phyllo dough, nuke it on high in the microwave for 60 seconds, and if you're only using one roll, half it to 30 seconds. It worked like a charm and was perfectly thawed and easy to handle. Opa! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
1 roll, phyllo (thawed)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 cups walnuts*
1 cup pistachios*
1 cup almonds*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tbps. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. all-spice
1/2 tsp. cloves
*measured and then processed or finely chopped
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2" lemon peel slice
2" orange peel slice
3/4 cup light honey
1/4 cup pistachios, crushed (optional as garnish)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove; set aside. Place the finely chopped nuts, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, all-spice, and cloves into a bowl, and combine until blended; set aside.
Unroll the phyllo dough and cover lightly with a damp cloth or towel.
Gently brush a 9 x 12" pan and 5 phyllo sheets (each) with melted butter, and layer into the bottom of the pan. (Be sure to keep the damp cloth over the phyllo dough at all times.) Evenly spread 1/3 of the nut mixture all over the bottom layer. Butter 2 more phyllo sheets and repeat, finally topping your baklava with 5 buttered phyllo sheets.
Cut with a sharp knife into triangles, squares, or diamonds, gently holding the phyllo so that it will not break apart. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the baklava becomes golden brown.
While the baklava is cooking, prepare the syrup by bringing the water, sugar, lemon and orange peels, and cinnamon stick to a boil for approximately 15 minutes. After the syrup begins boiling, add the honey, and let the syrup boil for another 3 to 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool until the baklava is ready. When the baklava is done, poor the syrup over the hot baklava, and sprinkle with some extra crushed pistachios (optional).
Now, the most difficult part of the recipe: wait at least 5-6 hours (preferably overnight) for the baklava to absorb the syrup.
Source: Slightly modified from Seemingly Greek