Baklava

February 16, 2010 § 7 Comments

The Mister loves nuts, by themselves, in various foods, however he can get it. I joke that only a nut can love nuts the way he does. With his Croatian heritage, he’s no stranger to nut-filled desserts. So imagine my surprise when he said he’s not sure if he’s had baklava. How is it possible that I’ve had lots (and love) baklava and he hasn’t? We’ll just have to fix that.

I’ve never made baklava before. Phyllo dough is one of those mystery ingredients that is a bit scary and intimidating to me. All those fragile thin sheets, layered upon buttery layers. I’ve had friends whose parents made these (and they helped) and none of them ever made it sound easy. As a matter of fact, they all made it sound very daunting. But that was so many years ago and my baking skills has improved somewhat since. And I have a how-to video to guide me through step-by-step (aka Mr. Alton Brown: Part 1 and Part 2).

Modifications I made:

  • Left out the rose water because I didn’t have any
  • Left out the sugar in the nuts
  • Changed the water to honey ratio because I read that less water will keep the baklava more crisp
  • Used both lemon and orange peels because traditional method calls for lemon and AB wanted orange, so I used both
  • I had to use a Corningware pan since I didn’t have a metal pan of the same size; turned out fine
  • Used nuts I had on hand (almost cleaned out the Mister’s entire stash of nuts–heehee, that kind of made him sound like a chipmunk or something) raw walnuts and almonds, roasted pistachios.

Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe

Ingredients:

For the filling:
1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
15 to 20 whole allspice berries
6 ounces blanched almonds
6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
1 pound phyllo dough
8 ounces clarified unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel
1 (2-inch) piece fresh lemon peel

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the broken pieces of cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.

Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.

Take the frozen phyllo dough directly from the freezer and put it in the microwave and nuke it for 60 seconds on high. This was AB’s highly recommended method to defrost the dough. This didn’t turn out exactly the way it did for AB. The center of the rolls were still a bit frozen, which made it difficult to unroll. Also, parts of it got just a bit soggy and stuck together, so I had to cut those parts away, leaving me with some half sheets that I used for the middle layers. It turned out just fine and I still had enough sheets.

Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan, or whatever size pan you’re using. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly. Layer 7 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts. Repeat with another 7 sheets of phyllo, butter and remaining nuts. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter.

Place pan into the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to set everything. This really helps with the cutting. I chose to cut everything prior to baking since I read that it is way easier to do it this way. It was really easy to cut through all the layers with a sharp knife.

Place in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, rotating half way through baking. I baked it for the full 60 minutes but should have pulled it out about 5 minutes earlier. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.

Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick, orange and lemon peels in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the peels and cinnamon stick. I dare you to try to resist licking the sauce off the cinnamon stick. Go ahead, I dare you.

After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

It’s going on Day 5 since I’ve made this and it’s still holding up beautifully. The phyllo is still crispy and the nuts still have their crunch. The Mister is enjoying this and I’ve become addicted to it. Good thing is that these are really rich and sweet and I can only eat one of these per sitting. Problem is that once we’re done with this batch, I’ll have to make another one.

Postscript: I left out the sugar ingredient from the nut mixture specified in AB’s recipe, primarily to cut down on the sugar content. I thought this turned out just as sweet and didn’t feel it missed the extra sugar.

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§ 7 Responses to Baklava

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