Baklava

I’ve been baking probably since I was ten years old (15 years ago) and surprisingly, I have never baked with phyllo dough. In fact, it’s fair to say that phyllo dough has always intimidated me. It seemed so tricky to work with the frozen dough without messing up. The main thing is to make sure the dough stays covered and doesn’t dry out so you need to move fast. However, after Steph and I’s recent trip to Greece, I became inspired to branch out and try to make one of the most delicious dessert ever, baklava.

I bought the phyllo dough in the morning and let it sit out on the counter for a few hours to get to room temperature. Meanwhile, I figured out the nut situation. Baklava is commonly made with walnuts or pistachios but really, a lot of nuts will work. The recipe I was using mentioned almonds so I ended up using about a third of all three different types. Finding shelled pistachios turned out to be more difficult than I expected but the extra effort paid off.

I did some perusing of recipes and found a great one on SimplyRecipes.com (Baklava). I followed it pretty closely except I used a larger pan and more butter, and added some ground ginger. Below is the recipe version I ended up using.

First you make the baklava filling:

1 lb chopped nuts (1/3 pistachios, 1/3 walnuts, 1/3 almonds)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground

1/4 teaspoon ginger, ground

Combine these ingredients in a bowl. Try to chop the nuts into evenly sized pieces. I ended up using the food processor for most of the chopping.

Three types of nuts: pistachios, walnuts, and almonds
Baklava nut filling

Melt 2 cups butter in microwave. (One possibility is melting 1 cup and when butter is low, melt the second cup. I found that as the butter starts to get cold, it hardens too much for spreading)

You need 1 lb phyllo dough, thawed according to manufacturer. Once it’s thaw, roll the dough out on a baking mat and cover with a damp towel. Make sure the towel stays moist so the phyllo dough doesn’t dry out.

Not drying out under the damp towel
Phyllo Dough

Lightly grease a 10×15 glass pan and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough into the bottom of the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter over the dough. Apply a second dough sheet and apply with butter again. Stack up eight layers of dough total, each brushed with butter. After the eighth sheet is brushed, apply one-third of the nut mixture. Evenly spread out and press down the nuts and then apply three more sheets of phyllo dough, each layer brushed with melted butter. Spread out another third of the nuts, stack three more phyllo layers, and then cover with the final third of the nut mixture. Top the baklava with eight layers of phyllo dough. Every layer of dough is brushed with butter. Once the dessert is completely stacked, cut into 24 squares before baking.

Layering the nut mixture
You cut the baklava before baking
Ready to be baked!

Bake the baklava at 350 F for 35 minutes or until lightly golden with the edges crisp. While the baklava is baking, make the syrup that you will later pour over the top of the dessert.

Yum!
Baklava baking away!

Syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup Colorado honey

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks

Combine syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove the cinnamon sticks and allow the syrup to cool.

Right as it was put on the stove
Cooking the syrup

Once the baklava is out of the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes. Pour the cooled syrup over the baklava, making sure to get it in all the cracks, and let the baklava sit for at least 4 hours. Then devour!

Right out of the oven!
Before syrup…
Now you just got to wait 4 hrs to try it...
After covered in syrup!
Eat me!
Delicious!

p.s. Phyllo dough is definitely not as scary as I thought initially! It is totally doable and the end result is so scrumptious, you’ll be glad you gave it a try. As a side note, I thought the syrup was a little too lemon-y so next time I’ll probably try a different version.

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