Good news. I asked Baklava to be my Valentine this year, and it said yes.
To celebrate, I dunked it in coffee, and it was even more delicious.
There will most likely be some sort of sad and bitter post-Valentine’s day post, but for now, I’m staying positive. I have good reasons: my sister came to visit this past weekend, and we had a blast, I tried to pay my electric bill today and realized my balance was only 11 cents, I’m not going to be spending Valentine’s day wallowing alone – I have a lady date with another single friend, and of course, I have this Baklava.
This is definitely one of my all-time favorite desserts to make. It’s super delicious, and it looks and sounds very impressive. Although it is a process, it is a fun process, and not nearly as hard as it sounds.
Years ago, in college (I can’t believe I’m old enough to put those two phrase together) I had a roommate who came from a big, Greek family. Her family lived close by, so she often went home on weekends and always returned with tons of delicious food. Anytime she went home, all of us roomies crossed our fingers that she would return with homemade Baklava. Lucky for us, she usually did. A few years later, at her wedding shower, we were again treated with a ton of delicious Greek food, including the famous Baklava. A couple of the roommates and I went over to her aunts (who had made all of the food) and let them know how much we loved everything – especially the Baklava. They were very kind and funny and gracious enough to give us their recipe. We actually went straight from the bridal shower to the grocery store and then made a batch that afternoon. I’ve been making it ever since – I’ve tweaked the recipe here and there – but it essentially remains true to what the Greek aunts told me, and it never disappoints.
Like I said, it is a bit of a process, and the Baklava needs to rest for at least 12 hours before digging in, so it’s something that you’ll want to plan on making ahead of time. It’s great for a party or some kind of special event as it makes a LOT and is classic while not being predictable.
I made it a couple years ago for a dessert contest at work and somehow managed to win “best taste” but still come in 2nd place overall. Stupid cake pops beat me out because they were prettier. I call B.S. on that one.
Anyway, I hope you give this recipe a shot and enjoy it as much as I do:
You will need:
1 pkg (1/2 lb) phyllo dough
1 lb chopped walnuts
1/2 c. white sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter – melted
A pastry brush
1 lemon wedge
3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. honey
1 c. water
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
How hard or easy this is totally depends on the phyllo dough. Sometimes, it just doesn’t want to cooperate and that complicates the whole process. The trick is that you don’t want it too wet or too dry. It usually comes frozen, but once you buy it, store it in the fridge. Unroll it carefully, and work quickly. If it starts to dry out, you can put plastic wrap over the sheets you aren’t using yet and place a damp cloth on top of it. I never have to do that – I keep the second roll in the fridge until I need it and just work quickly with the open one. The phyllo dough is so thin that if it gets wet, it will stick together like wet paper and is pretty much ruined. If it gets too dry, it will get very brittle and break – this isn’t the worst because if it breaks you can still piece it together in the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9×13 baking pan.
Start off by melting your butter and chopping your walnuts. I usually buy walnuts that are already chopped, and then chop them some more. You don’t want a powder, but you don’t want giant pieces either.
Mix together the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Place the melted butter in a small bowl.
Gather together the butter, pan, walnut mixture, and phyllo dough and get ready to start the assembling.
Place a single sheet of dough in the pan and brush the entire sheet with butter. Do this for 12 sheets, buttering each one. Once you get to sheet #12, butter it and sprinkle with 1 cup of the walnut/sugar/cinnamon mixture. Add 3 more sheets of phyllo (buttering each one) and sprinkle with another cup of the mixture. Continue this – 3 sheets, sprinkle mixture, 3 more sheets) until you run out of the walnut mixture. Then continue to add sheets of phyllo (of course buttering each one) until you run out of either phyllo or butter (I always run out of butter first!)
IMPORTANT: Cut the Baklava before you bake it. Nothing is ruined if you forget, but it is much easier if you cut before you bake. I cut it diagonally to make diamond shapes, but you can do it however you like.
Also important – don’t let the dog eat it.
Bake for 1 hour.
While it is baking, make the syrup:
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Once the Baklava is baked (it will be nice and golden brown on the top), pour all of the syrup over it.
This is the hard part – leave it alone for 12-24 hours. Basically, you just want to give it enough time to soak up the syrup. I usually just let is sit (uncovered) over night.
Use a knife to remove the pre-cut pieces from the pan and place in paper or foil baking cups. If presentation is important to you, you can place a whole clove in the center of each piece, but I never have the time or energy for it.
Even Stella loves Baklava: