Sweet, Flaky Baklava

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Growing up and living most of my life in Middle East, we are so accustomed to this heavenly sweet filled with layers of nuts and covered with a honey syrup. Baklava is a sweet not only found in the Middle East but also some parts of the Mediterranean region like Turkey, Greece and Israel. The best baklava that I have eaten so far has to be from Halab (Aleppo), Syria. I can never forget the warm, sweet pastry filled with whole pistachios and covered with pure honey syrup, on that cold, wintry night. And I have eaten a fair share of baklavas in my life.

I have never attempted to make baklava before coming to the USA. You know how it is when you have something available all the time that you don’t really even think of making. So after watching a few different videos on you tube and searching for a few recipes online, I concluded that it wasn’t that difficult to make baklava if you are working with pre-made phyllo pastry. Just layering them real quick with brushing butter and sprinkling nuts in between and you are ready for the pastry to be baked. Pour chilled syrup on warm, baked pastry and you will never buy baklava from the store again πŸ™‚ trust me on this one πŸ™‚ Just look at those layers of sweet, nutty goodness…yum!!

bak_1This recipe isn’t overly sweet. The sweetness is just the right amount and the syrup amount is also perfect that it doesn’t get your pastry overly soggy. You will get to experience the crunchy, crispy phyllo dough in every bite. You can increase the amount of syrup if you want it to be sweeter.

Ingredients:

1 (16 oz.) package phyllo dough

1 pound of chopped nuts (I used walnuts but pistachios, pecans, almonds can be used)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar

For the syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup honey

5-6 green cardamom (optional)

Preparation:

It is very important to work quickly with the pastry dough. For this, prepare and keep everything on a table or workplace. Butter a 9×13 inch pan.

Prepare the syrup first and keep it in the refrigerator to chill. You can also prepare the syrup a day or two ahead so it is really chilled when it is ready to use. In a heavy saucepan, add water, cardamoms and sugar and bring it to a boil till sugar is melted. Add honey and simmer for 20 minutes. Refrigerate after it comes to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the nuts. Toss brown sugar and cinnamon powder with the nuts in a bowl.

Unroll the phyllo dough and cut in half with a sharp knife to fit the pan. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying. Alternatively, you can use a dampened cloth for covering. Place two sheets of phyllo pastry in the buttered pan. Butter lightly with a pastry brush. Layer with two sheets of dough and brush lightly with butter again. Repeat till you have 8 layers of pastry dough.

Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nuts on the layers. Do not worry about covering the whole surface as you will be sprinkling nuts after every few layers and covering the surface thoroughly. Layer with two sheets of dough and butter lightly, then sprinkle with nuts. Repeat this process of layering two sheets of dough, buttering them and sprinkling with nuts. The top most layer should be 6-8 sheets of pastry dough thick without any nuts in between but buttered after each two layers. Pour the remaining melted butter on the top-most layer to cover the surface completely.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamonds or square shapes. Make sure not to cut all the way to the bottom. This will ensure that when you pour the syrup, it will drench all the layers in between. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes till the baklava is golden and crispy.

Remove the baklava from oven and let cool down for 10 minutes. Remove the cardamom seeds from the syrup and spoon it on the baklava and let seep in a while. Cut all the way through and serve.

This also freezes well. Leave the baklava uncovered as covering it will make it soggy.

bak_2Other Options:

You can flavor the syrup with vanilla essence, almond essence or orange blossom water. Orange blossom water is very commonly used in Middle eastern sweets.

Servings: 3 dozen

Preparation Time: approx. 70 minutes including baking time

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