Greek Pastry Week! First Up: Baklava

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I realized a couple of weeks ago that in the 3 years that I’ve been writing this little blog, I had yet to post the recipe and step-by-step instructions for Baklava. I apologize profusely for this oversight and am (finally) ready to remedy that oversight. Since most folks are still in holiday mode this week, I’ve decided to post a different Greek pastry every day.
Baklava, like Spanakopita, is incredibly easy to make. What prevents most people from giving it a go is that you have to work with phyllo, which has a reputation for being difficult to work with. It isn’t, you just need to practice with it and follow some basic rules.
1. Make sure that it is completely thawed. The day before you want to cook with your phyllo, put it in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you’re ready to start baking/cooking.
2. Work quickly. Phyllo dries out if it’s sitting too long, so it’s best to have all of your other ingredients ready to go and you’re ready to start assembling your creation before you take the phyllo out of the package.
3. Move slowly. Phyllo is very delicate, so you need to move kind of slowly once you’re separating the pieces from one another. If it rips, no biggie at all. Just lay it down like you would have otherwise and proceed accordingly. Since it’s flaky by nature, no one will see your goofs.
That’s it! If you follow those 3 simple rules, working with phyllo is a sinch. Okay, now Baklava actually have very few ingredients.
For The Filling:
1/2 lb. chopped nuts (we always use walnuts)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (my grandmother’s secret ingredient)
For the Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
lemon wedge
1 Tbs. honey
To Assemble:
1 package of phyllo (2 packages come in a box)
1 stick butter melted
First, get your simple syrup going by adding the sugar, water and lemon wedge in a medium size saucepan.
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Bring it up to a full simmer and stirring occasionally, cook for 15 minutes or so. Take it off of the heat and stir in your honey until it’s dissolved.
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Set aside and allow it to cool completely.
Next, mix together your nuts, spices and breadcrumbs in a bowl.
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We’re going to be dousing the finished Baklava in simple syrup and the breadcrumbs help absorb the syrup and give your dessert more body.
Now let’s assemble it! Cut your stack of phyllo in half. Butter an 8×8 or a 9×9 pan and add one piece of phyllo. Once it’s in the pan, brush on butter generously and add another sheet of phyllo. Repeat this process until you’ve used roughly 1/3 of the phyllo.
Next, add 1/2 of your walnut mixture evenly to the top of the buttered phyllo.
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Once you’ve done that, begin the process of brushing butter on each sheet of phyllo until you’ve used another third of the stack.
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Spread on the last of the walnut mixture and layer the last 1/3 of the phyllo (brushing each sheet with butter). Using a very sharp knife, go ahead and score the top layers of phyllo in whatever shape you’d like to serve the Baklava. We usually do diamonds or triangles.
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**Alternately, you can fold your Baklava into triangles like we do with the Spanakopita. This would probably be the easier (but less traditional) way to go. It’s definitely what I’m going to do next time.
Bake your masterpiece for 40-5o minutes in a 350 degree oven. You want the top of the phyllo to be a nice golden brown.
Once you take the Baklava out of the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes and then using the sharp knife again, cut all the way through the Baklava following the score marks that you previously made.
Finally, pour the cool simple syrup over the hot Baklava, making sure to also get it around all of the edges and in all of the cracks.
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Let it to sit for an hour or so to allow the syrup to be absorbed and serve it in muffin tins. And that, folks, is how you make Baklava.
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(This particular batch of Baklava is thinner than usual since I used a large pan, but since it was only for our own consumption, I wasn’t as worried about aesthetics.)
Please, go forth and give this a go as soon as you can. You’ll be impressed at how easily it comes together and finally, you’ll no longer have to wait for the Greek Festival to come around in order to get your fix.
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