Sunday, May 1, 2011

Make Baklava

I always thought baklava was one of those really laborious, easy to mess up kind of desserts—the kind best left for the professionals. But it’s not…it’s easy. A little too easy, considering the amount of butter and sugar between those flaky layers. But trust me, it’s a breeze. You should make it.

It’s practically impossible to mess up. Even if you could only find weird organic phyllo dough that practically crumbled when you tried to pull apart the layers, and you had to piece them together, using heaps of melted butter as glue. Even if you didn’t follow the instructions that said to toast the two kinds of nuts on separate baking sheets, and even then, you only toasted them for a minute, rather than five. Even if you didn’t make the syrup the night before as instructed, and you ended up making only two layers, instead of three. Even if you threw it together thirty minutes before your guests arrived, and you had to hop in the shower immediately after popping it in the oven. Even then, it would still turn out beautifully, with sticky, sweet layers of nuts, sandwiched between flaky, buttery phyllo dough.

My friend Dave said my baklava was better than the baklava at the Greek restaurant. He didn’t say which Greek restaurant, but I’m going to take the compliment and not ask questions.

Pistachio Walnut Baklava

2 cups sugar
2/3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup water

Bring all ingredients to boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and boil about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

2.5-3 cups walnuts
2.5-3 cups natural raw unsalted pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
20 17x12-inch sheets thrawed phyllo pastry
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Additional honey

Preheat to 350°F, and toast nuts for 5 minutes. Cool, and transfer to food processor. Add 3/4 cup sugar, lemon peel, and ground cinnamon. Blend until nuts are ground to medium- fine texture. Brush 13x9x2-inch baking pan with some melted butter. Cover bottom of pan with 1 layer of phyllo sheet (will either be 1 half sheet, or several pieced together) and brush with melted butter. Continue, making 10 layers total. Spread 1/2 of nut mixture over phyllo. Repeat—10 more phyllo sheets with butter between layers, topped with remaining nuts. Top with 5 more phyllo sheets. Using sharp knife, cut through top phyllo layers lengthwise (do not cut through to bottom of pan) to make 4 strips, then cut phyllo crosswise to make 16 rectangles, and cut each in half, to make triangles. Bake until phyllo is golden, about 45 minutes. Spoon cold syrup over hot baklava, then drizzle honey to cover entire top layer. Cool and serve.
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