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Today’s recipe is for Baklava, a sticky-sweet dessert of contested origin. According to Wikipedia, “It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of Central and Southwest Asia. The history of baklava is not well-documented. It has been claimed by many ethnic groups, but there is strong evidence that it is of Central Asian Turkic origin…”

And that’s our history lesson for today.

Anyway, on to the recipe. Since I had previously never made baklava (or even worked with phyllo dough), I used Emeril’s recipe from Food Network’s website without making any major changes (although I did add a bit more cinnamon to the nut mixture).

To make a 9×13″ dish of baklava, you will need:

For the filling and dough:

  • 1 pound of walnuts, or a combination of walnuts, pistachios, and almonds (I used 3/4 lb walnuts and 1/4 lb almonds.)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (possibly more if you go heavy on the dough brushing)
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed according to the package instructions

For the syrup:

  • 1c sugar
  • 1c honey
  • 3/4c water
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 1-inch strip lemon zest
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground cardamom

First, make the syrup so it can cool.

Combine the sugar, honey, water….

…lemon juice…..

…cinnamon sticks, lemon zest, cloves, and cardamom in a medium saucepan. Cook over med heat until the sugar has dissolved (stir often). Reduce the heat to low and  cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and lemon zest, and set aside to cool while you prepare the dough and filling.

Side note: I’m not a huge fan of honey’s flavor, but it’s bearable to me in this dish because it’s altered with the addition of spices, lemon juice, and granulated sugar.

Now we’re gonna make the filling and dough. Be prepared – phyllo is kinda a pain to work with. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. >.>

Finely chop the nuts with a knife or food processor. Add them to a medium bowl.

Add the cinnamon and salt; stir well to combine.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with some of the butter.

Open the package of thawed phyllo and place the thin sheets on a clean work surface. Measure the phyllo sheets to fit your baking dish. Trim with a sharp knife if necessary, and discard the scraps.

This is what the phyllo sheets look like. (Sorry that it’s not a very good photo.) Each sheet is as thin as tissue paper, and much more brittle.

Emeril’s recipe suggested covering the phyllo sheets with a piece of plastic wrap and a lightly damp kitchen towel, because the phyllo dries out quickly if left uncovered, but I was able to work quickly enough for this to be unnecessary. I had one ready though, just in case I started to have trouble.

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F now.

Place one of the phyllo sheets in the bottom of your baking dish, and lightly brush with some of the melted butter. Repeat this process with 6 more sheets of phyllo, for a total of 7 layers. Brush with melted butter each time.

On top of the 7 phyllo layers, spread 3/4c of the nut mixture evenly. Repeat with 7 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each layer as before, and topping these sheets with another 3/4c of the nut mixture. Continue this layering process, butting each of 7 sheets of phyllo and topping each 7 sheets with 3/4c of nuts, until you have used all of the nut mixture. Layer any remaining phyllo sheets on top (butter each layer) until all of the phyllo has been used.

Yeah, that’s a lot of butter. I feel like Paula Deen.

Now use a very sharp knife to make cuts like this. 4 cuts down lenth-wise, and about 7 cuts width-wise. Doesn’t have to be exact, but make sure your knife is very sharp, because this is very tedious.

You can cut them into small squares if you prefer. Doesn’t really matter, but the diamonds are pretty!

Now bake the baklava until golden brown, approx 40 minutes.

Remove the baklava from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Drizzle the cooled syrup over the warm baklava. Allow to stand for several hours (or overnight) before serving.

The phyllo dough is soooo delicious. It’s perfectly flaky and crisp, and worth every bit of the effort!

You’re gonna need a tall glass of milk. Just sayin’.

Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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