Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Easy Baklava?

Don't let the title scare you. Thirty-something years ago, I remember tasting my first piece of delicious baklava. I was at a Greek festival in my hometown and my Mom had told me about this flaky pastry that had layers upon layers of sticky-sweet honey and nuts. After my first bite I was hooked. It wasn't until much later while in my 20's that the thought of actually making it crossed my mind. I had worked in an office where, of course, everyone brought in mounds of baked goods during the holidays. Amongst all of those goodies, one lady had brought in homemade baklava. I was so intrigued wondering to myself "How did she make this?" After drilling her with question after question, she finally told me that it's one of those baking moments where you just have to "conquer the fear of phyllo". So with that in mind, I set off to "learn" this pastry on my own.

I did research on recipes and, yes, the phyllo dough is intimidating at first but you will quickly learn that a pastry brush and melted butter are your best friends, allowing you to easily play "plastic surgeon" when and where needed on this project. My recipe was adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookies Cookies Cookies book and then tweaked over the years. This has become my "signature" dessert for the holidays and friends and family tell me they always look forward to receiving it. I just love that it looks so labor intensive, yet, I can put it together in the same amount of time it takes for a batch of cookies. Just remember, if you're going to try your hand at this, make sure you go into it with a "pastry warrior" attitude. That way, when your passing it out to your family, or a curious co-worker begins asking questions, you too can say, "It's just phyllo dough and once you conquer it, you will see how easy it is." I'm jus' sayin'!

Yes Easy Baklava

Adapted from Cookies Cookies Cookies by Better Homes and Gardens

Preheat oven to 325

Pulse the following until fine in a food processor:
2 cups of roasted unsalted shelled pistachios
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (set aside)

1 16 oz package of frozen phyllo dough. Defrost and lay flat with a damp paper towel covering the entire stack.

Honey/citrus syrup (recipe below)


Line a four-sided cookie sheet (15x10x1) with a sheet of parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint the paper with melted butter. Take 2 sheets of phyllo and lay them on the cookie sheet (you may have a little overlapping). Brush melted butter generously over the entire sheet. Proceed 2 more times. Then sprinkle the entire nut mixture over the entire sheet. Again layer 2 more sheets of phyllo and continue until all sheets are used. Butter the top. Using a very sharp knife cut through all layers to make square or diamond shapes. This can be a bit tricky but don't get discouraged, your almost done. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and flaky.

While your Baklava is in the oven, make the following syrup:

In a heavy pot combine the following:
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 C. water
1/2 C. honey
1 Tbs. lemon zest
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. As soon as the Baklava is out of the oven, carefully take a pastry brush and paint each piece generously. Use all of the syrup.

Cool and put each individual piece in a muffin cup paper liner and serve. May be kept in an air tight container for 1 week. I do not recommend freezing.