Baklava is a pastry that can be traced as far back as the 8th Century B.C. Early Baklava was made with a thin bread dough, chopped nuts and honey, and was baked in wood-burning stoves. Hundreds of years later, with the Turkish Sultans believing pistachios and honey were an aphrodisiac if eaten on a regular basis, they demanded these ingredients be used.
The modern-day Baklava is made with Phyllo dough, "leaf" in Greek. Phyllo dough provides a flaky, buttery crust.
This can be a very complex recipe but after making Baklava for many years and perfecting the sequence, the following is an easy-to-follow, detailed version of a pastry that will soon become your trademark treat for the holidays... and highly requested. Just don't let on how easy it soon becomes to make.
You will need:
- Two people -- there are two reasons for this; first, it's always much more fun baking together, and, second, during the actual construction of the Baklava, it is much easier to have one person spreading out the Phyllo dough while the other butters each layer.
- Large cookie sheet with sides.
- Food processor or a way to finely chop the walnuts and pistachios.
- Medium-sized bowl for nut mixture.
- Serrated knife for scoring Baklava before baking.
- Medium-sized pot for making simple syrup.
- Pastry brush for buttering layers.
Ingredients for pastry:
- 1/2 lb shelled walnuts
- 1/2 lb shelled pistachios
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1/2 t ground cloves
- 1 lb unsalted butter, melted
- 1 lb Phyllo pastry sheets, defrosted and brought to room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Finely chop the nuts in the food processor.
- Transfer nuts to a medium-sized bowl and mix in brown sugar, ground cinnamon and cloves.
- Unwrap dough and spread out, placing a damp towel over the stack as it will dry out quickly.
- Brush cookie sheet with melted unsalted butter.
- Working together, one person places a sheet of dough in the cookie sheet while the other person brushes the butter on each layer. The bottom portion should be approximately 6 layers. Each layer will use about 1 1/2 pieces of dough.
- Spread 1/3 of the sugar and nut mixture evenly over the buttered sheet.
- Repeat the process for another portion of dough, making about 4 layers.
- Repeat #7.
- Repeat #8.
- Spread remaining 1/3 of the sugar and nut mixture evenly over the buttered sheet.
- Top with remaining sheets, which will be about 6 layers.
- Drizzle any remaining butter over the top.
- Place in refrigerator and let set for about 30 minutes.
- With the serrated knife, gently score the top few layers of dough, starting at one corner and moving to the opposite corner. Score about every 1" parallel to the first line.
- Beginning at the third corner, score to the opposite corner and then about every 1" parallel to that first line. Diamond shapes will be created imitating a "leaf."
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and flaky. If the top begins to brown too fast, gently place a foil tent over the Baklava.
- Make simple syrup while the Baklava is baking.
Make Simple Syrup:
- Combine 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup orange blossom honey, 1 t vanilla extract, 1/2 lemon (juiced), 2 large strips orange peel, 1 cinnamon stick and 3 whole cloves.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove orange peel, cinnamon stick, and cloves.
- Set aside to cool.
Final Steps for Delicious Baklava:
- Remove baked Baklava from oven.
- Tilt the pan slightly so any excess butter will pool at one end.
- Ladle out butter and discard.
- Set Baklava flat on counter, still in cookie sheet.
- Drizzle simple syrup over the Baklava.
- Let set for about an hour to allow the simple syrup to soak in.
Hints and Reminders:
- Do all preparation work, such as chopping nuts and measuring ingredients, before constructing the Baklava.
- If you can resist, wait until the Baklava is completely cooled before cutting -- the diamonds will cut easier and the layers should not separate.
- If you are going to put the pastry in gift-giving tins, be sure to layer with waxed paper.
- Save some for yourself -- and enjoy!