Baklava

As long as you have some pre-made papery thin phyllo dough at hand, Baklava is really easy to make. The basic concept is to mix together chopped nuts, sugar, and spices, and then stack alternating layers of phyllo dough, butter, and nut mixture. Then, drizzle with honey, lemon juice, and some more spices, and you’re done!

As you could probably guess from the height of my baklava, though this process might not be technically challenging, it is very time consuming. Which is why it was nice to tackle baklava with someone else in the kitchen to speed along the stacking and keep me entertained.

Or, you know. An entire kitchen full of people works, too.

So… between Liz, my brother, his friend, and my dad periodically wandering in and out (plus pauses for some entertaining YouTube videos) I got the tiniest bit distracted, which is why there aren’t very many pictures. But like I said, this really isn’t the hardest recipe to follow, and the few pictures I took of the results are hopefully mouth-watering enough for those of you who just read cooking blogs for the pictures.

I used this recipe, which came out perfectly delicious, but I also found another one a few days ago that uses pistachios, cashews, and macadamia nuts in the nut mixture and orange peel in the honey syrup. These sound like excellent additions.

No ingredients picture this time, but this is what you’ll need for the baklava (stay tuned for the syrup!):

  • 1 lb (4 cups) walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 lb phyllo dough, thawed (should just be one package of phyllo dough)
  • 1 cup butter, melted
Mix together chopped walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and any other nuts or spices you’d like. Set aside.

Unroll the phyllo dough veeery carefully onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Stack eight sheets of phyllo dough one on top of the other, brushing butter on top of each sheet. After the first eight sheets, spread a thin layer of the nut mixture. Continue to layer the three components in this order: dough, butter, dough, butter, nuts (it’s totally ok if you don’t do this exactly, but you should stay somewhat in the vicinity of two sheets of phyllo dough per layer of nuts).

That stuff that looks like paper? That’s raw phyllo dough.

When you reach the end of your phyllo dough, stack eight layers (with butter in between each layer). Finish with more butter and a sprinkle of spices.

Refrigerate your baklava until the butter is cold and set, 15-30 minutes. This will make it easier to slice. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the baklava into diamond shapes by cutting horizontally across the pan and then cutting diagonally in one direction (or cut it into squares or triangles or hearts or whatever). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are brown.

YUM. Ok ok ok. Resist the urge to munch on one of these straight out of the oven. It will taste better with syrup. I promise.

Let the baklava cool and start on the syrup. The ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (optional)
  • vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 long strip of orange peel (optional)
Combine all ingredients in saucepan over high heat. Once it boils, reduce heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Let simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Pour the hot mixture over the baklava.
Now, when it comes to syrup, I have to say I stayed toward the conservative side. After all, I didn’t want this already sugary confection to be weighed down with gobs of sticky syrup. As it turns out, there was no need! Adding water to the syrup already dilutes it and makes it lighter, so use as much as you want!

And there you have it. Messy, flaky, sticky, delicious baklava.

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