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Baklava – layers of paper-thin phyllo dough with a filling of chopped nuts and drenched in a sweetened honey syrup…
Baklava is a dessert that has always intimidated me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the sweet, nutty squares of this mysterious Middle Eastern dessert. When I was a little girl, a part of my family’s Sunday afternoon ritual was to stop off at the local bakery, my mom and I would rush inside and along with a loaf of french bread for sandwiches, she would pick up a box of four pieces of baklava for the four of us to share later in the evening.
The little sheets of pastry stacked neatly one on top of the other, separated by crunchy bits of pistachios and covered in an addictingly sweet sauce mystified me. It was a dessert only to be made by professional chefs…or so I thought…
The truth is, this Baklava recipe is surprisingly easy to make. Yes, it’s got the reputation for being difficult, but in reality – it’s so easy.
Baklava makes a lovely Christmas gift to give to neighbors and friends. Either bake a tray of it to give or separate the pieces of baklava and wrap them in pretty gift boxes or bags.
There are many different variations of baklava depending on the country of origin. It consists of buttered layers of phyllo dough and chopped nuts, usually pistachios but often you’ll see baklava made with almonds, walnuts or a combination of them all. Baklava is topped with a fragrant, sweet syrup made with sugar, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon to hold it all together.
When working with phyllo dough, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Since phyllo dough is thin, it dries out very quickly. It helps to keep the phyllo dough covered with a damp towel while you’re working with it. When making the baklava, each layer of phyllo dough is brushed with melted butter so it doesn’t stick together. In between the stack of layers, you’ll add the pistachios. After the baklava bakes in the oven, it’s covered with a simple honey and sugar syrup.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cups pistachios , roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 13 sheets phyllo dough , thawed
- 8 tablespoons butter , melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a rectangular baking pan. Make sure the phyllo dough fits inside the pan.
- To make the syrup, put 2 cups sugar, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan with 1 cup water and bring to boil, stirring. Simmer for 5 to 6 inutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved, then take off the heat and cool. Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan.
- Mix the pistachios, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Open the package of phyllo dough and carefully unroll. Only remove the sheets as you need them and keep the remainders covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
- Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on the buttered baking pan and brush the butter over the top. Cover with another sheet of phyllo dough, brush it with butter and continue in this way until you have a stack of 6 sheets lining the bottom of the pan.
- Spread half of the nut mixture over the phyllo, patting it down firmly and leveling the surface.
- Cover with another four sheets of phyllo, buttering each one. Add the reminder of the nuts, then three more buttered sheets of phyllo, ending with a buttered top.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut a diamond or square pattern in the baklava.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden on top.
- Remove from the oven. Slowly pour half the syrup all over the baklava. Wait for it to be absorbed, then pour over the rest.
- Cool completely, before serving.
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