Sunday, March 29, 2009


We end our Greek feast with a Greek favorite, Baklava. This dessert is a layering of buttery phyllo dough and slightly sweetened nuts. Many cultures and countries claim it as their own, but the first real record of baklava comes from Turkey, which then spread it throughout the Mediterranean during the Ottoman Empire.

The ingredients used in baklava will differ depending on where in the world you are. Turks prefer pistachios while Syrians use almonds and walnuts. The filling might be flavored with cinnamon, cloves, or cardamon. The syrup usually incorporates the same spices as the filling, but may also include lemon juice, rose water, or orange-blossom water. But it is always nutty, buttery, and delicious.

Our recipe comes courtesy of my Greek-American friend's mother. She's tried just about every baklava recipe out there, and this one is her family favorite. Although baklava isn't very difficult to make, it can be time consuming, especially if you've never worked with phyllo dough before. So be sure to give yourself plenty of time if you're making this for a special occasion.

adapted from the Lowe Family
Pictures by Caroline

1 pound phyllo dough*
1 pounds walnuts**
1 pound almonds
1 pound pistachios
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted

1. Heat oven to 350°. If phyllo sheets are frozen, bring to room temperature before using.
2. Grind all nuts together in a blender or food processor, leaving some pieces; do not grind them to a powder.
3. Combine nuts with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg.
4. Brush a 9 x 13 inch pan with melted butter. Unwrap phyllo sheets and unroll them. Keep phyllo covered with a damp cloth, so they don't dry out.
5. Put one phyllo sheet in pan. Using a pastry brush, brush it lightly and evenly with butter. Top it with 4 more sheets, brushing each one with butter. Evenly cover the fifth sheet with the nut mixture. Cover it with another sheet of phyllo, brush it with butter, and top it with 4 more sheets, buttering each one. Cover with nut mixture and repeat process until you reach the top of your pan. Butter the top layer.
6. With a very sharp knife, cut pastry into square or diamond shaped pieces, 1-2 inches wide (cutting all the way through the layers of nuts and pastry). This will allow the syrup to sink into the baklava, and make it much easier to serve after it is baked.
7. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
8. While baklava is baking, make syrup.
9. When baklava is done baking, remove from the oven and immediately pour the syrup over the top. Let cool and then serve.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
2. Once sugar dissolves, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let cool.

*You will probably be left with about 8 sheets extra.
**The only criticism we received for this recipe was that some people felt there were too many nuts. If you're not crazy about loads of nuts, you may prefer to reduce the quantity of nuts to about 2-2.5 pounds.


Kelly said...

Yum! I love Baklava. We went to a Greek restaurant a few days ago and the whole meal was yummy, but especially the Baklava! I'll have to try making this.

Jessie said...

I remember mom making this, probably shortly after her return from Jerusalem. I've always liked it, but never made it. I'll have to track down some phyllo dough and give it a try.

two little chefs said...

Yes I remember that as well. This version is quite different than hers. I think if you significantly cut down on the nuts, it will be similar to the baklava she used to make.

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