Happy National Baklava Day! If there ever was a dessert worthy of it’s own day, I’d say baklava was it. I’d never had the pleasure of trying it before moving here to the Eastern Shore. I’ve made mention before how our little island has quite a few Greek families that live and operate restaurants here. Jon worked in one of them growing up (Famous Pizza for you locals), so baklava was a favorite for him at a young age. He introduced it to me, and it quickly became one of my favorite as well!
Tender, crunchy, golden brown layers of phyllo dough encasing layers of finely chopped spiced nuts and brown sugar, all enrobed in honey. It’s pretty much as close as one can get to perfection in a baking dish. I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to making it in my kitchen. I was afraid it would be super time consuming or tedious, neither of which it was. Took all of about 15 minutes to assemble, and the results were in-sane…
I used a mixture of the traditional walnuts and pistachios for a little depth of flavor. I also added a few slices of lemon to the honey syrup. Jon said he remembered Rula (the owner) putting lemon in her syrup when she made baklava at the pizza shop, and thought that sounded like a great touch.
I actually need to make another batch soon, the poor folks at Jon’s work didn’t even get to enjoy any! That’s how we know something is really good, when leftovers don’t make it into the office. If you’ve never made baklava, or worse – never even tried it, do yourself a favor and make this soon!
2 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 cups pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, melted
1 package (roll) phyllo sheets, thawed
For the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup honey
fresh lemon, sliced
Combine sugar, water, and honey in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add lemon slices and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a liquid measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and place refrigerator to chill. I like to use a cold syrup on my hot baklava, I think it absorbs better and helps retain crispiness.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts, pistachios, sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts, taking care to not chop them too fine. Transfer to a bowl.
Set up your assembly area. Clear off a large surface, such as your kitchen table or counter. Place the bowl of nut filling, the baking pan, the melted butter and the pastry brush on the surface, reserving a spot for the phyllo. Carefully unroll the phyllo. If the phyllo dough is too big for your baking pan, trim the phyllo sheets to match the dimensions of your pan using a knife or scissors. Place a slightly-damp tea towel over the phyllo.
Using the pastry brush, brush on a thin layer of butter all over the bottom of the baking pan, and place one sheet of phyllo doug on the bottom of the pan. Butter the top of the phyllo lightly, making sure you are going out all the way to the edges. Repeat with layering 6 more sheets to total 7 sheets of phyllo, buttering the top of each sheet of phyllo before placing the next. Be sure to re-cover the remaining phyllo with the tea towel each time you remove a sheet.
Sprinkle half the nuts over the phyllo and spread them gently with your hand so that you have a fairly even layer, spreading all the way to the edges. Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the nuts and carefully brush with melted butter. Repeat, layering 4 more sheets in all, with butter between each layer.
Add the second layer of nuts. Sprinkle the remaining layer of nuts over the phyllo. Again, spread them into an even layer and push them all the way to the edges. Place a phyllo sheet on top of the nuts and brush lightly with butter. Repeat, layering 6 more sheets of phyllo, with butter between each layer, to total 7 sheets.
Using a very sharp knife, cut the baklava on the diagonal into approximately 28 pieces (can be more if you make smaller pieces). Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Check half way through and rotate the pan for even browning. When golden brown, remove from the oven onto a cooling rack. Run your knife through the baklava to be sure the pieces are cut all the way through.
Retreive the honey syrup from the refrigerator and remove the lemon slices. Carefully pour the chilled honey syrup over the warm baklava, being sure to coat each piece. Cover the baklava and let sit for several hours or overnight before serving. Will keep for up to 5 days, covered.