Baklava is amazing. It’s a nut lovers dream and has long been a baking fantasy of mine. I am pretty well known for my holiday baking. You know, the usual chocolate crinkle cookies, pecan tassies, buckeyes, and snowballs. But year after year I stop into my local bulk foods store and pick up a giant tray. I have always been a little intimidated by this dessert with it’s layer upon layer of walnuts, honey, and buttery flaky goodness. Finally, I attempted a Baklava recipe for the very first time and it turned out wonderful.
Why on earth was I so afraid of making Baklava?
It turns out that it isn’t so difficult to make after all. It is a bit time consuming, but easy peasy. Did you know that Baklava is a classic Greek pastry? It has layers of buttered phyllo dough and walnuts or pistachios, that are soaked in a honey based syrup. Sounds pretty amazing, right? The nuts are the star of this dish so it’s important that any Baklava recipe is made with very good nuts. Traditionally, Baklava is prepared with either walnuts, pistachios, or even hazelnuts. I decided to make this first pan with Walnuts, although I plan to make this again closer to the holidays to try the pistachio version. I will let you know how that turns out.
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I searched the web for Baklava recipes and found little to no variation in them. I ended up using a combination of recipes from Michael Symon, Allrecipes, and The Pioneer Woman. This is what I came up with…
To make Baklava you need a box of phyllo dough. It’s sold in frozen packages. Take it out of the freezer and place it in the fridge about 24 hours before you plan to use it. Then an hour before you are ready to start baking, take it out of the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter. Spanakopita, also known as Greek Spinach Pie, is another great recipe that uses phyllo dough.
When you are ready to make the Baklava, place your chopped walnuts or pistachios into a bowl, sprinkle them with a teaspoon of cinnamon, and toss to combine.
Make sure your 9 inch by 13 inch pan is very generously greased with butter. Lots of butter. While you have the butter out, go ahead and melt some. You will need a lot of melted butter to brush over the phyllo sheets.
Tip: Phyllo dough dries out very quickly. Take out a couple sheets at a time to work with, and keep the rest on a cookie sheet covered with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. You will want to work fast while assembling the Baklava, so your dough does not dry out.
Make sure the phyllo sheets fit into the bottom of your pan. If the sheets are to large for your pan, be sure to trim them down so they lay flat. Then you start brushing on the melted butter.
Start out by brushing melted butter onto the top of the first two phyllo sheets you’ve pulled out. Once covered in butter, take those first two sheets and place them into the bottom of your pan butter side down. Repeat this process with 2 more sheets, then 2 more sheets again until you have a total of 6 sheets in the bottom of your pan.
Brush the top sheet with butter, and sprinkle about 1/4 of your nut mixture over top.
Like you did in the beginning, take your next two sheets of phyllo and brush the top with butter. Place butter side down on top of the nut layer.
Brush the top with butter, then sprinkle on another layer of nuts. Repeat this another two times using 1/4 of your nuts for each layer.
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Remember in the beginning when you had 3 layers of just phyllo, 2 sheets per layer, and buttering between each layer? You’re going to do this again, but on top of the nut layers you just placed.
That’s it for the layers. Brush the top with more melted butter, and with a very sharp knife cut from one corner to the next. Continue to cute diagonally across, and then in the reverse direction until you have diamond shaped pieces like in my picture below.
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Place the pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until it is browned and crisp. If it starts getting too dark too quickly, loosely cover with a piece of foil and remove for the last few minutes of baking. My oven has been running hot, so I had to do this.
While the Baklava is in the oven, you’ll make your sauce as directed below in the recipe. As soon as you pull the Baklava out of the oven, start pouring over the sauce. I found this easiest to do with a ladle. This honey sauce is wonderfully sticky and delicious. I had some left over sauce, so it’s okay if you don’t use it all.
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It’s important that you let the Baklava sit for 3 to 4 hours to soak in all the wonderful sauce. This was absolute torture for me and my daughter on the day that we made this. But it was worth every single minute.
- Remove phyllo dough package from freezer and place in the fridge for 24 hours to thaw. Remove from fridge approximately 1 hour before using.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F when you are ready to start making the Baklava. Generously butter a rectangle baking pan.
- Keep phyllo dough on a baking sheet covered in a piece of plastic wrap and a damp cloth. It will dry out quickly, so only pull out what you need. Make sure dough will lay flat in the bottom of the pan, and trim if necessary.
- In a bowl, toss together your nuts and cinnamon.
- Take out two sheets of phyllo. Butter the top sheet of dough with melted butter, then pick up both sheets, the buttered and unbuttered sheet below it. Place into the bottom of the pan, buttered sheet facing down. Press lightly into the pan. Repeat this process twice more, so that you have six sheets of phyllo in the pan, three of the sheets buttered.
- Sprinkle on 1/4 of the walnuts to make a single layer. Butter the top of two sheets of phyllo and place them on top of the walnuts, buttered side face down. Add more walnuts, then two more buttered phyllo sheets. Repeat this two more times, or until you’re out of walnuts.
- Just like the bottom sheets in the pan, top with 6 more buttered phyllo sheets. Brush butter over the top. Using a sharp knife, cut a diagonal diamond pattern in the baklava.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- While the baklava is baking, combine 1 stick of the butter, honey, water, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- As soon as you remove the baklava from the oven, drizzle half the saucepan evenly all over the top. Allow it to sit and absorb for a few minutes, then drizzle on more until you think it’s thoroughly moistened. It’s okay if you have some of the honey mixture leftover. You want it to be sufficiently drenched, but not drowning in sauce. As the baklava sits, it will soak in all that delicious goodness.
- This is the hard part. Allow the baklava to cool completely, and rest for several hours to soak in the syrup.
- Get prepared for some sticky fingers!
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