My love for baklava goes as far back as I can remember. I mean, what's not to love about a sweet, syrup-soaked nutty treat?! I have been known to dine at Middle Eastern restaurants for the sole purpose of partaking of their dessert offerings...
Though I am not a part of any organized religion, I really look forward to holidays. Since I don't have associations with the various holidays that many religious people do have, it can be hard to cut through all of the mass-produced, commercialized junk that is out there to find personal meaning in them. For me, though, holidays are about family being together, and tradition. The traditions don't have to be huge and deeply meaningful, but I believe it creates a sense of comfort and stability for kids when there are certain things they can always depend on. Even if it is as small as the food that is served. It always comes back to the food, doesn't it?
I made this baklava for Easter brunch with my family. It is something that I've been wanting to make for a long time - the last time I made it was almost ten years ago when I was in college - so I jumped at the chance! It was a huge hit, and is certain to become part of Easter tradition for me and my boys.
I looked at several baklava recipes, took bits and pieces from each one, added my own touches and came up with this beautiful and delicious version. It was a good thing I had several family members over to my house, because this recipe makes a ton of baklava, and I would have eaten it all by myself if I hadn't sent some home with everyone...
Here are a few tips before you start making your baklava:
- Make sure your phyllo dough is completely defrosted before using it. At least 24 hours in the refrigerator or 6 hours on the counter should do the trick.
- While you're working with the phyllo, lay the whole stack out flat and cover it with a barely damp kitchen towel. This will keep the thin layers of dough from drying out as you work with one piece at a time.
- Phyllo dough comes in different sized pieces. The ones I used were twice the size of the pan I made my baklava in. In order to use the entire sheet of phyllo, line two corners up in the corners of the pan, draping the rest of the piece over the side of the pan. Brush with melted ghee - see below - then fold the overhanging dough over the half in the pan. This fit perfectly in my 17"x10 1/4" pan. Even with folding, you may have to do some trimming with a sharp knife if the pan you use is smaller.
- You'll need ghee for this baklava. It is delicious and easy to make. Here's how: http://blueridgebaker.blogspot.com/2010/01/ghee.html
1 pound phyllo dough
18 ounces pecans (or walnuts, or pecans, or a combination of nuts)
7 ounces ghee, melted*
2 tablespoons palm sugar
4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
pistachios for garnish
1 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon rose water
*you want to keep the ghee liquid at all times, so if it begins to cool and thicken, just pop it back on the burner for a minute.
Preheat oven to 275. Put pecans, palm sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and salt in food processor. Pulse several times until it becomes the texture of coarse meal. Brush pan with ghee. Lay a piece of phyllo in pan, brush evenly with ghee. Repeat until there are 8 layers of phyllo. Pour half of the nut mixture in pan. Spread it evenly. Continue layering phyllo, this time, 4 layers. Top with remaining nuts, then another 12 layers of phyllo. Remember, every time you layer the phyllo, you brush each piece with ghee before adding the next. Brush the 12th layer with ghee, and cut into desired shapes using a sharp knife. Bake for about 2 hours, or until the top is slightly browned. While baklava is baking, make the syrup:
In a glass measuring cup, combine honey, water and rose water. Stir until smooth. As soon as baklava comes out of oven, pour syrup evenly over the entire thing. Let cool to room temperature before eating - this will ensure even absorption of syrup, and the baklava will be less likely to have a soggy bottom.