Baklava (Middle Eastern Nut Pastry)

Difficulty: intermediate

Baklava is a classic Middle Eastern dish, even more Middle Eastern than that forty something year old guy trying to get girls at a college bar. Make this for your terrorist-y friends and they will embrace you with open arms into their community. Baklava requires a lot of time and you don’t really understand what that means till you’ve tried to make this damn dish. Phyllo dough is like thinner than paper and can’t support its own weight and breaks just by looking at it. Half way through you will want to give up on life and want to be like the dinosaurs, extinct. But you’ve already come half way, so might as well finish it. But after it is done and you’ve waited a minimum of 6 hours, you’ll have a taste of heaven and forget all the hardships until the next time you decide to make this dish. Baklava is made from a mixture of nuts, its best to use equal parts almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, but pistachios are expensive so I just used almonds and walnuts. Lets begin!

Ingredients:

1 pound box phyllo dough

0.5 pounds almonds (1.5 cup)

0.5 pounds walnuts (2 cups)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup clarified butter (can substitute with unsalted butter)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

0.5 cup honey

Nuts for garnish (optional)

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Directions:

First you have to chop the nuts, use a food chopped or food processor and grind the nuts into a coarse powder. Grind them separately because almonds require more time to grind than walnuts. Add in the cinnamon.

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Now organize your work station. Clarified butter has a classic taste to it, but regular butter works just as well as a substitution. Melt the butter and have an applicator brush handy. Let the phyllo dough thaw out before you unroll it otherwise all your sheets will crack. Cut it into a desired size and cover it with a cloth otherwise they will dry up and break off into confetti. My baking dish was 9 by 13 and the phyllo dough was 18 by 13 so I just cut it in half. Line your baking dish with a baking sheet.

DSC_0022Butter the bottom then put a layer of phyllo dough on it, then butter it again, then phyllo dough, and repeat the process until you have 8 layers of phyllo dough. Now spread half a cup of the chopped nuts over the buttery phyllo dough.

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Now put three layers of phyllo dough (with butter between each layer) and then half a cup of nuts, then three layers of buttered dough, then nuts, and repeat until you don’t have any nuts left. Your last layer of phyllo dough should be 8 – 10 layers thick. Don’t worry that you tore all your dough or that they look wrinkly, all the imperfections go away during the baking phase. Your final product should look something like this:

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Cut the pastry into squares or diamonds now. Use a sharp knife and use a sawing motion otherwise you will pull the layer apart.

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Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake your Baklava for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

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To make the sugar syrup, mix the water, sugar, and honey in a sauce pan and mix on a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Do not bring to a boil, we are not trying to make it thick. Now slowly pour the sugar water evenly on the crispy pastry, make sure all of the top layer was drenched by it. Let it cool and then cover with a cloth and put it in the refrigerator for at least six hours. The pastry and nuts will soak up the sugar water and harden again. If you dont give it enough time then the bottom will be soggy.

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This dessert is not to sweet but has that incredible richness due to the nuts. There are about a hundred different ways to make a Baklava depending on how you roll it or what it is filled with. My favorite Baklava was this chocolate nut filled one in Istanbul, and I have been able to recreate it using nutella.

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Enjoy!

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