Whenever I make this baklava recipe to serve to guests, I feel like a fraud, since it is so impressive, yet it is really easy to make.
In case you don't know, baklava is a sweet confection from the Middle East that is made from phyllo leaves (very thin pastry), nuts (usually walnuts or pistachios), honey (or sugar syrup) and cinnamon.
I always make this treat at Christmas time to give as a gift to special friends and to enjoy throughout the season. Unlike many Christmas cookies, it travels well and keeps for weeks in a closed container, and the flavor actually improves with age!
Don't be intimidated by the phyllo leaves or the many layers! Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to work with the thin pastry with ease and confidence.
Equipment you will need for this baklava recipe
9x13 baking pan
Hand-crank nut grinder (You can use an electric one, but I prefer the coarser texture and larger pieces that result from a manual grinder.)
Clean, moist dish towel
1 cup butter, melted
1 pound phyllo sheets (usually found near piecrust in frozen food section)
4 cups nuts (choose one of these: walnuts, pistachios, pecans)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 and 1/2 cups honey, warmed in pan on stove (Do not boil!)
-Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
-Thaw frozen phyllo leaves in refrigerator overnight or on the counter for several hours.
-Heat butter until just melted.
-Grind walnuts into a course meal and add cinnamon. (For best results, use a hand grinder, so there are pieces of walnut visible.)
-If phyllo leaves are larger than your pan, cut to fit, saving scraps for use also. Flatten out phyllo leaves on paper and cover with dampened dishtowel to keep them from drying out.
-Using a pastry brush, brush bottom of 9x13 pan with butter, and place one phyllo sheet to cover bottom of pan. Brush with butter (just enough to cover) and add another sheet. Repeat this procedure until you have six phyllo sheets, brushed with butter, in the pan. Add about ¼ of the nut mixture and spread evenly.
-Top with six more phyllo sheets brushed with butter.
-Repeat this process until you have used all of the nut mixture. (If you had to trim the sheets, use several scrap pieces to form a layer.)
-Take remaining phyllo sheets, as a stack, and place over last nut layer. Pour remaining butter over sheets.
-Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 squares and then diagonally across each square, being sure to cut only 3/4 of the way through the layers. (See diagram of how to cut (partially through the layers).
-Bake for 1-1/2 hours until golden brown.
-After removing from oven, pour warmed honey over the top, allowing it to drizzle down through the cut lines of the baklava.
-Cool and cut the rest of the way through the cut lines into triangles. May be stored in cool dry place for several weeks.
Notes for Baklava Recipe
-Keep the moist dishtowel on the unused phyllo sheets except when you are actually laying the sheets in the pan. If you work fast, you don’t have to replace the towel after each sheet, but you should cover the unused sheets when adding the nut mixture. If you get interrupted in the middle of the process, be sure to cover the unused sheets and also, that the sheets in the pan are covered with butter.
-Don’t be too fussy about the layers of phyllo; if the sheet rips or is in pieces; just place the pieces in the pan to form a layer and brush with butter.
-You can keep the thawed phyllo in the refrigerator for up to a month.
-If you had to trim the sheets to fit your pan, use the trimmings (several pieces at a time) to form layers in the middle of your baklava. This way the top layers and bottom layers will be a whole sheet and the pieced sheets will be in the middle where they are not noticeable.
Enjoy this treat in moderation.
Since this is a healthy eating site, I have to say that you should enjoy this baklava recipe sparingly. It is very sweet and caloric, so a little goes a long way! Fortunately, it is not a treat that lends itself to overeating, so enjoy a small piece, savoring the texture and sweet, nutty taste!