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Monday, January 5, 2015

Chew on This | Baklava

Happy New Year! 

I'm here to do some tempting. I know, ruthless of me, but I don't think you'll be too angry. 

I made baklava for the first time. It was a complete success. I'm here to boast, to persuade, and to entice you to try it for yourself. I've had the misconception, for many years, that baklava was too time consuming and difficult to attempt. It really isn't. It just takes a few steps of organization and then you too can make a huge tray of indulgence.

Honestly, when I started the baklava making over the holiday, I went into it with nothing to lose. I had already wrecked two batches of peanut brittle, had four fruitless pursuits at my whiskey salted caramel sauce, and made a pound of crispy black bacon. Multitasking was doing its best to torture me. So when I tempted fate and forged on with my grand baklava making self, I was kind of shocked when I was handsomely rewarded with perfect baklava. 

Look at me, all full of myself and braggy because of baklava. Don't think you won't be shouting your baklava success from the roof tops, too. You will. And I applaud you. 


Here's our recipe:

1 T butter, softened
4 C finely chopped toasted pistachios
1 C finely chopped toasted walnuts
2-3 t cinnamon

1 package phyllo dough
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
pastry brush

2 C honey
1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t clove
1/2 t cardamom
orange peel from one large orange (make sure any white pith from the peel is removed)

To begin the baklava process, allow the frozen phyllo dough to defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350℉. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking pan with 1 tablespoon of softened butter. 

*If you haven't toasted your nuts yet, line a cookie sheet with foil and spread out nuts in a single layer. Toast nuts in your preheated oven for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, toss warm nuts with 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon. When cool, finely chop the nuts and set aside. Reserve 1 T of chopped nuts to sprinkle on the top of the baklava before baking.

Unroll your package of phyllo dough, cover the dough with a slightly damp cloth (to keep the dough from drying out).

With a pastry brush, butter one sheet of phyllo dough, place it butter side down into the pan.  Repeat this process until you've stacked 8 sheets of dough. Now, sprinkle a single layer of your chopped nuts on top of the dough. Top the nuts with 3 sheet of dough - butter each sheet and place the buttered side down. Again, sprinkle with a single layer of nuts, 3 sheets of dough...continue this until you have a final layer of nuts. Top this final layer of nuts with 8 sheets of buttered dough, making sure to butter both sides of the very top layer.

Before baking, use a very, very sharp knife to cut the baklava. I cut mine on the diagonal to make diamond shapes. Place the pan into the oven and bake the baklava for 45-50 minutes, or until the dough is golden and crisp.

While the baklava bakes, make your syrup. In a sauce pan, combine your honey, water, sugar, spices, and orange peel. Stir to incorporate. Heat mixture over medium-low heat, bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Take the syrup off of the heat, remove all the orange peels from the syrup and allow to cool down a bit.

When the baklava is finished baking, immediately pour the syrup over the warm baklava. Let the baklava cool, uncovered, for at least two hours. Serve and enjoy! If you have any leftovers (!), freeze them for later!

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