Sometimes I get in the mood for something and I just can’t get it out of mind. I think with the cool weather I have been dreaming about things that pair well with coffee. For all the coffee lovers out there, start your pots. This one is divine with a fresh cuppa.
Baklava recipes have been dated back to the Mesopotamia era, so history buffs can enjoy the “rich” history of this dessert. I have to admit though, I think the Greek’s get this right. They traditional do 33 layers of phyllo dough and nuts to represent the 33 years of Christ’s life.
Ok, so enough of the history lesson, let’s get started.
Many people avoid making baklava for one reason: phyllo dough. This wonderful dough is tricky because it is paper thin, dries out easily and tears and rips easily, but is also creates the most wonderful flaky texture that is crucial to baklava.
Phyllo dough is sold in the freezer section of the store, and usually comes with two rolls of about 20 sheets each. For this recipe take one roll and place it in the refrigerator for a day or at room temperature for 2 hours to thaw slowly. DO NOT try to defrost in the microwave. Once your dough is defrosted naturally, take it out of the package, unroll it, wrap it in plastic wrap and place a damp towel on top of it. Since the dough is super thin, it dries out quickly so while you are working, keep covering it back up with the plastic wrap and the damp towel.
One of the first decisions you get to make is what kind of nut to use. Traditionally walnuts are used, but almonds, pecans and hazelnuts are also good choices. I prefer pecans and almonds so I mixed them up. You will need 4 cups of nuts for this recipe. The nuts also need to be chopped. I threw mine in my food processor and pulsed it until I had the consistency I wanted. You want in-between a “chop” and a “dust” for texture. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg and cloves. Set your nut mixture aside.
Now the fun begins. Melt a stick of butter and generously butter a 9×13 pan. I use a baking brush and I tend to think this is an essential tool for making this. Carefully unwrap you phyllo dough and brush butter lightly on the top. Take this sheet and place it butter-side-down into your pan (so the butters of your pan and the first sheet are touching). Place another sheet on top and lightly press into the pan. Butter the top of this second sheet, then add two more pieces of dough. Remember to keep covering your dough back up while working. Butter the top again and add two more pieces. You should know have six sheet of dough with butter between every other one, ending with butter. Spread about 1/3 of your nut mixture on top. It should look like this:
Now add another sheet and butter the top. Repeat so you have two more layers of dough, both with buttered tops. Spread another layer of nuts. Repeat this two-layer process again. You should now have three layers of nuts sandwiched between buttered phyllo dough (first layer with six total sheets and the last two layers with 2 sheets in-between.) Add four more seeht with butter in-between. End with butter.
Are you confused? Don’t stress. Just remember dough, butter top, nuts, repeat. If the number of sheet in-between isn’t just like I said, your baklava will be just fine.
Now the important part. Cut the baklava into diamond or triangle shaped pieces before baking with a very sharp knife. You may need to hold the dough in place gently as you cut.
Now pop this in the oven at 350 for about 40-45 minutes until it is very golden brown.
While the baklava is baking, it’s time to prepare the delicious syrup that gives baklava is sweet gooeyness. Add 1 stick of butter, 2 cups of honey, 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 c. dark brown sugar and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla. You can use any sugar, but I prefer dark brown to give it a richer taste. You can also vary the flavor depending on the type of honey you use. I used clover honey but wildflower and orange blossom honey would also be good choices. Bring this to a boil and then reduce and let simmer while your baklava finished baking.
When your baklava is finished baking and is nice, golden brown, drizzle your syrup evenly over the top. Allow is to absorb for a few minutes and then drizzle more on until you think the baklava has been thoroughly moistened.
Allow the baklava to cool completely. This is the hardest part of the recipe. Then gently lift out a piece of gooey deliciousness and enjoy. Opa!
- 1 package phyllo dough sheets
- 4 cups chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds of hazelnuts (or a mixture)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Dash of ground nutmeg
- Dash of ground cloves
- 2 sticks of butter
- 2 cups honey
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Remove phyllo dough and thaw according to package directions.
- Place the phyllo dough in plastic wrap and covered in a damp towel. Keep the dough covered while working so that it does not dry out.
- Chop nuts and add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt one stick of butter and brush the bottom of a 9×13 pan thoroughly with butter.
- Unwrap your phyllo dough and brush the top sheet with butter. Place it butter down side down in your pan. Add another sheet of dough and press the two layers lightly into your pan. Top with butter then add two more sheets. Top with butter. Add two more sheets and top with butter. Cover up your dough.
- Spread a layer of nut mixture evenly on top of the dough.
- Add another sheet of dough, butter the top and then add another sheet. Butter the top.
- Add another layer of nuts.
- Repeat with another two sheets, both with buttered tops, and another layer of nuts.
- Top with four more layers of butter-topped dough, ending with butter.
- Gently brush edge with butter to seal them.
- Cut our baklava with a sharp knife into triangles or squares.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.
- While your baklava is baking, add one stick of butter, honey, water, sugar and vanilla to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer while your baklava bakes.
- Once the baklava is done baking, gently drizzle with the syrup mixture. Allow it to soak in and then repeat until all layers are moistened.
- Allow to cool completely.
Cheryl’s love for baking started at a young age when she would get up early on the weekends and make her family coffee cake using a Betty Crocker cookbook. This soon turned into making breakfast for residents at a local nursing home. From there Cheryl learned to love the precision of baking and the freedom of cooking while experimenting in the kitchen. Her big dream is to own her own cafe/bakery someday. Outside of the kitchen, Cheryl is a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful daughters, a wife of over 10-years and the owner of an organic foods co-op. She is Girl Scout leader, a volunteer in the community, a wine connoisseur, a social media junkie and a child of God.
Cheryl and her husband are currently in the process of adopting a son and daughter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To learn more, go to www.troxels.com.