Baklava is one of the first desserts that I can remember eating. Every Christmas my dad would order heaps and mountains of desserts from various food catalogs, and the one that went the quickest was always the Baklava. For those who haven’t had it, it’s layers upon layers of butter brushed phyllo dough with cinnamon scented walnuts in the middle, and after you’ve baked it, you pour a citrus honey syrup all over it for the phyllo to soak up. I’ve done much baklava research over the years, and there are a few tricks that yield the best baklava. First of all, pouring hot syrup over cooled baklava ensures that the baklava syrup gets evenly soaked up, and it also prevents the baklava from getting soggy. Additionally, the easiest time to cut the baklava into squares is when the baklava has baked halfway through. Here’s how to make some stellar baklava:
Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon until nicely chopped:
Place 4 layers of phyllo dough on the bottom of your dish, and brush with butter. Sprinkle with the walnuts:
Repeat this layering process until all the ingredients are gone, then bake for 25 minutes. Cut into squares with a sharp knife:
Then bake for 25 more minutes.
Prepare the syrup and pour all over the baklava so it can soak through, then let it cool completely. Enjoy!
For the Baklava:
- 8 oz walnuts
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 8 oz phyllo dough (1/2 a 16 oz box), microwaved in the roll for 30 seconds
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
For the Syrup:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup good quality honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 strip orange zest, removed with vegetable peeler
- 1 strip lemon zest, removed with vegetable peeler
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt until nicely chopped.
- Place 4 layers of phyllo dough on the bottom of a 8×6 dish, and brush with butter. I find that the easiest way to do this is to dot butter all along the edges, then butter the middle. That way the brush doesn’t lift up the layers. Add another 4 layers, brush with butter, then another 4 layers, brush with butter again. Sprinkle the phyllo with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.
- Add another 3-4 layers of phyllo, brush with butter, then sprinkle with nuts. Repeat this process until you have 8 layers left for the top. Lay 4 layers of phyllo on top, brush with butter, then add the remaining 4 phyllo layers, and brush with butter again.
- Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the baklava from the oven and cut into squares with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 25 more minutes, then remove the baklava from the oven.
- Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then cook for 3 minutes. Remove the lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon stick, and pour the hot syrup evenly over the baklava. Let the baklava cool completely at room temperature for 8 hours (uncovered, to prevent sogginess). The results are even better if you let the flavors sit overnight until everything has melded. Enjoy!
*Yield: 1 8×6 pan. I purposely bake this in an 8×6 pan, which is about half the usual 9×13, because otherwise my husband and I would devour it all in a day. If you want to do a 9×13, just double all of the ingredients.