Coco of Balance, Joy and Delicias! Coco, please email me your address so I can have your prize pack sent out.
Now onto the baklava! The secret to a great baklava is the syrup, which serves two purposes: it makes the baklava sweet (the sweetness of the dish comes entirely from the syrup since there’s no sugar between the layers) and it moistens the baklava. Too much syrup and the baklava is soggy, too little and it’s dry. This might not sound like a big deal, but the texture of the baklava can make or break it. I like my baklava to have just enough syrup so that it’s moist and syrupy at the bottom but crisp on top. This recipe has the perfect syrup-to-baklava ratio to achieve this.
In addition to the syrup, the only other tricky part about baklava is handling the phyllo dough because it’s so thin and delicate. Here are a few tips for working with phyllo:
- If you’re using frozen dough, let it thaw in the fridge overnight to ensure that it thaws at a more even rate. If you let it thaw at room temperature in warm or humid weather, I’ve noticed that the dough has a tendency to stick together.
- When you’re working with phyllo, make sure it doesn’t dry out. I like to put the dough on a cutting board and cover it loosely with plastic wrap, then lightly drape a damp towel on top of the plastic wrap. (The plastic keeps the air off it and the damp towel keeps it slightly chilled; don’t put the damp towel directly on the dough because it can make the dough gummy and cause it to stick together.) Work quickly but there’s no need to rush, since the dough will be pretty well protected if you set it up like this; it should only take about 10 to 15 minutes to layer the entire baklava.
- Don’t overdo it with the butter. Phyllo only needs a light brushing of butter to crisp up nicely.
I made this baklava for my dad’s birthday since it’s one of his favorites. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect since Greece is this month’s Regional Recipes theme. (Don’t you just love it when things line up like this? ;) ) I’m sending this recipe to Joanne of Eats Well With Others for this month’s round-up.
(Yield: 9 by 13-inch dish of baklava)
1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough
1 lb chopped nuts (I like to use walnuts or pistachios)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c (2 sticks) butter, melted (plus a little more butter to grease the pan)
1 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c honey
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB rose water
9 by 13-inch baking dish
Make the syrup first, as it should have time to cool before being poured on the hot baklava so it can be absorbed. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, cook the sugar and 1 1/2 c water until it boils, then turn it down to a simmer, add the honey, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice and rose water; set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 350F; grease the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter. In a bowl, combine the chopped nuts and cinnamon. Unroll the phyllo and cut it in half down the center. Place the phyllo on a cutting board, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and lightly drape a damp towel on top of the plastic wrap.
Place 2 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the pan (they will overlap), then lightly brush butter on them with a pastry brush. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle on 3 TB of the nut/cinnamon mixture, then top with 2 more sheets of dough. Brush more butter on the dough, then sprinkle the nut mixture on top and continue this way. Leave about 8 sheets for the top layer.
Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into any decorative pattern you like (make sure you cut all the way down to the bottom). Bake for 45 minutes, until the baklava is golden and crisp.
Once you take the baklava out of the oven, immediately pour the syrup on top (be very careful; the syrup will bubble up). Cool completely before serving. I have successfully made this up to a week in advance (I stored covered it at room temperature), and I actually think it tastes better the longer it sits (as it sits it takes on a denser, gooier quality).