Friday, October 11, 2013

Baklava -- It's Easier Than You Think

Want to become a pastry chef without actually making pastry?  Use phyllo dough.  Unlike puff pastry (a pain to make, to be honest), I don't know anyone who actually makes their own, so no chef can "one up" you by saying they make their phyllo dough "in house."  :-)

Once you get the hang of it, phyllo is pretty easy to use.  Plus, if it rips, it's no big deal -- just layer it on anyway and brush with a boatload of butter.  Fool proof!  The original recipe I found didn't use enough cinnamon, in my opinion, so I upped the spice.  Plus more honey.  More flavor, more goodness. Also, there's no way I wanted an entire large pan of baklava sitting around our house (the original recipe made a 9x13 pan) -- the temptation would be too great to eat it all in two days.  As it was, we ate this smaller pan in 2, and we only gave away 4 pieces to our neighbors.  I have no willpower...


Baklava My Way

Adapted from a recipe found on

1/2 package of phyllo dough
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of an 8x8 inch pan.  Combine finely chopped walnuts and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Unroll phyllo dough, and place a damp, clean towel on top of it to keep it from drying out.  Take a couple of sheets and line the bottom of the pan.  Brush with melted butter.  Layer another sheet, brush with butter. Repeat until you have about 8 layers on the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the walnut mixture on top of the phyllo layers.  Layer and butter 3 more phyllo layers, then spread the second 1/3 of walnuts, then another 3 sheets with butter.  Top with the remaining sheets, buttering in between each layer.  Carefully cut the baklava into 9 squares, then cut each square in half, making 18 triangles.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until golden brown.  While the baklava is baking, combine water and sugar in a small saucepan, heat until sugar dissolves, then add honey.  Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened and syrupy (you should still have about 1/2 cup of syrup).  Take off heat and add vanilla.

After baklava has finished baking, remove pan from oven and drizzle honey syrup over the entire pan of baklava.  Let cool for at least an hour (2 hours is best, if you have the willpower), so that the pastry can soak up the syrup.

Makes 18 servings (or 9, if you're my family, because you can't eat just one piece).

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