Baklava

Greek food is always a good idea.  I made Tiropitas recently and still am amazed at how great the Koliva came out last year, but I still have barely tapped into the greatness that is Greek cuisine.

I've been itching to make baklava ever since the holidays, but ended up caught up in other baking and didn't get around to it.  So on my last trip out shopping, I grabbed the walnuts and phyllo and decided to hop on it.  I'll admit that this is an intimidating dish--I've made a custard dish called Galactoboureko that is similar a few years back (another one I need to post about!) but this was my first try at baklava.  It's truly simpler than I expected!  I opted to follow a recipe from a Greek cookbook my mom sent me, but made a few slight adjustments.


For this dish, I picked up a nut chopper since I didn't have one on hand and imagined crushing 1 pound of nuts with a meat tenderizer to be an extremely loud nightmare.  The nut chopped made this an easy experience for sure.


I mixed the finely chopped walnuts with some cinnamon in a medium sized bowl.  While the recipe called for adding some sugar in, I skipped out on it because the honey and sugar glaze is sweet enough.  I've had baklava that was just too sweet, and that wasn't what I wanted to make.


I got the butter melted in a small saucepan and set up my work area with my pastry brush, pan, and ingredients.  Typically, if you are working with phyllo dough, you want to keep the dough moist by covering it with wax paper and a damp towel.  As I knew I would be working fairly quickly, I opted to leave it out.  But for a first time phyllo baker, I would definitely suggest covering it so it doesn't get crunchy and brittle.


First, I used my pastry brush to spread some butter in the bottom of the casserole dish and added 2 sheets of phyllo on top.


I spread some butter over the dough, then added 2 more sheets and repeated until I had about 8-10 sheets in the pan.


Next, I spread some more butter over the top and sprinkled on about 2 tablespoons of the chopped walnut mixture.  I topped with another 2 sheets of phyllo and repeated until I used up all of the nut mixure.  I worked my way through the entire box of phyllo, making sure to leave about 8-10 sheets for the top layer.  I then repeated the same process as I had for the bottom layers, alternating butter and phyllo.


After the top layer, I spread more butter then cut the baklava into diamond shapes by cutting strips lengthwise with a steak knife then cutting diagonally.  It's not the best slicing, but this was my first go around!  I ended up making 2 trays of baklava, one a few days later.  I learned that you do not want to butter that top layer before cutting it--that's why the picture below is a bit messy.  Cut the baklava first, then gently brush butter over the top.


For my first tray of baklava, I refrigerated the uncooked baklava for 30 minutes prior to baking per the Greek cookbook recipe.  The second time around, I just popped it in the fridge for a about 15 minutes while the oven pre-heated (yes, I have an ancient oven).  I didn't see a big difference in the final product, so next time I'll follow the same method of just keeping it cool while the oven heats up.  I baked the baklava for 50 minutes, until it was golden brown.


I  made the sauce during the last few minutes of cooking by adding the water and sugar to a saucepan and heating it to medium.  Once the sugar dissolved and the mixture bubbled, I added in the honey and vanilla and simmered the mixture for 20 minutes.  My photo of the sauce came out awful, so forgive the lack of an image here.  Next, I poured the sauce over baklava after pulling it out of the oven and a glorious delight was complete!


The above image is of the second tray of baklava.  Not the improvement on the cutting skills!  The baklava was FANTASTIC!  I brought a whole tray to work and watched everyone go crazy for it.  Some people had never tried it, and I was glad mine could be their first taste.  It was just the right amount of sweetness.  I had some pieces that sat for a few days and the longer the glaze soaked in, the better the baklava.  This was SO much easier than I expected, and I highly recommend anyone interested in baking give it a shot.  More Greek recipes to come!

Baklava Recipe

Ingredients:

1 package phyllo dough (16 ounces)
1 pound walnuts
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Instructions:

Chop walnuts into pieces, then mix with cinnamon in a large bowl.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Use a pastry brush to spread a layer of butter in the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish.  Lay 2 sheets of fillo in the bottom of the casserole, then spread another layer of butter.  Repeat 4-5 more times, finishing with a layer of butter.  Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of the walnut mixture evenly over the fillo, then add another 2 sheets of fillo, butter, and repeat until the nut mixture is used up.  Top with another 8-10 pieces of fillo and butter until the filo is gone, leaving that too sheet without butter.  Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamond shapes by cutting strips lengthwise then cutting diagonally.  Butter the top layer then refrigerate.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake baklava for 45-50 minutes, until the baklava is golden brown in color.  While baking, make urn sauce by mixing water and sugar and a saucepan and bringing to a boil.  Once sugar dissolves, stir in honey and vanilla and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove baklava from oven and pour sauce over the top.  Allow to sit overnight before serving.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Emily,

    You baklava looks yum but here are a few tips you might like to try. I have developed them over the years.
    1. Trim filo to pan size
    2. use ghee instead of butter (1cup per tray)
    3. Layer filo without brusing each layer, once finished cut baklava into desired shape with extremely shap knifee. now drizzle liquid ghee over tray equally,I focus on the lines. Now tilt your tray in all directions allowing the ghee to run into and between all the filo. you will see a colour change once its equally distributed.

    Voila. save a lot of time and looks more neat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback, Gemma! I have never worked with the before but will definitely give that method a try to see how it comes out. It certainly sounds easier!

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