Sunday, June 21, 2009
Butter, honey, sugar, butter, dough, nuts, butter, spices, and more butter.... what could be more delicious? Being caught between layers of baklava could possibly be Paula Dean's and my own personal heaven.
Baklava has been claimed by many ethnic groups as their own, but since this is my blog, I am going to claim it officially for Greece.... even if the origin of the word came to English via Turkish. Regardless of where this lovely treat originated, it is delicious, sweet, a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. Enjoy!
60 minutes prep time
45 minutes cook time
1/2 lb. walnuts
1/2 lb. almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb. phyllo dough
1 1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
Juice of one lemon
Rind of 1/2 a lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of coriander
1. Thaw phyllo dough according to the package directions. Leave wrapped until ready to use.
2. In a food processor, combine walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse about 15 to 20 times until finely chopped.
3. Melt butter over low heat in a sauce pan. Do not allow to brown.
4. Spray the bottoms and sides a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Assemble nut mixture, butter, and baking dish on your work surface. Open the phyllo dough and immediately cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. The sheets dry out extremely quickly and need to have the cover. If the phyllo dough is larger then the dish you are using, trim to size with a knife.
7. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and cover remaining phyllo with damp towel. Using a pastry brush, brush phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat this process seven times, buttering each new sheet of phyllo dough.
8. Spread evenly 1/3 of the nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.
9. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 more layers have been added. Spread 1/2 of the remaining nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.
10. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 more layers have been added. Spread the remaining nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.
11. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 layers have been added. Butter the top of the final sheet of phyllo dough.
12. Using a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise through the center of the layered phyllo. Now, cut each one of those "halves" in half, creating 4 even lengthwise rows. Now, turn your pan and cut down the center to form a column. Make two cuts on each side of the center cut, creating 6 even columns. In the end, you should have 24 squares. Make sure to cut all the way through the bottom layer.
13. Transfer your baking dish to the preheated oven and cook about 45 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile...
14. In a medium sauce pan, combine the honey, sugar, water, lemon juice, lemon rind, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and coriander over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the syrup has thicken slightly; about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan so that it does not boil over.
15. Remove lemon rind and cinnamon sticks and let syrup sit to cool.
16. Remove baklava from oven and let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Pour the syrup mixture over the top and allow to cool for several hours at room temperature uncovered. It will look like a lot of liquid, but it will be soaked up by the baklava.
Baklava will remain fresh for 10 days at room temperature. Like it will even last that long...
Quick & Dirty Tips
Replace the damp towel on top of the unused phyllo dough immediately have using a sheet of it. You'll be amazed at how quickly it dries out and turn to paper... and sticks together... and gets you mad... and angry...
Buy 2 boxes of phyllo dough in case it starts to dry out or gets to damp. Helps to have an "emergency" box on hand.
I cut the lemon in half to juice it and then just throw one of the halves in for the syrup rather then zesting it or anything fancy... the flavor will be drawn out either way.
You can use any type of nuts... but always keep at least 1/2 the nuts walnuts. When I made this yesterday, I used a combination of walnuts, almonds, pecans, and a handful of pistachios leftover in the pantry.
I double this recipe and use what is called a 1/2 sheet pan. It takes two sheets of phyllo to cover the surface area and makes 48 squares. I love it.... simply double everything!