Baklava

A popular pastry in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Baklava is hands down one of the most delicious things in the world. It appears in different variations depending on where it’s prepared. Sometimes it has cardamom, orange peel, or rose water, sometimes just cinnamon (my preference). What all baklavas have in common is the use of filo, a dough of Turkish origin that consists of multiple paper-thin layers separated by films of butter. A true delicacy, baklava was probably invented in the Ottoman sultan’s kitchens at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

My friend Jennifer’s mom makes the best one in the world. This recipe is an adaptation of hers. 

For the filling:
1 ½ cups walnuts
1 ½ plus ½ cups pistachios
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 package frozen filo sheets, thawed

For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts, pistachios, cinnamon and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not pasty or powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Place the remaining ½ cup pistachios in the food processor, pulse, and place in a separate bowl.

Melt the butter.

Unroll the filo dough and, if you need to, trim it to fit a 9×13-inch pan using scissors. Set aside and lay a damp towel over it to keep it from drying out while you work.

Brush melted butter on the bottom and sides of the pan. Fold back the damp towel, carefully remove one sheet of filo dough and place it on the bottom of the pan. Brush with a thin layer of butter making sure you butter all the way to the edges. Place another filo sheet over it, butter and continue layering to total 10 sheets of filo, buttering the top of each sheet before placing the next and making sure to keep the remaining filo covered with the damp towel each time you remove a sheet. Sprinkle the nuts over the top layer of filo and spread them gently all the way to the edges in an even layer. Create another filo layer using the rest of the dough, remembering to brush with melted butter between each layer. Cut the baklava on the diagonal into approximately 28 pieces using a very sharp knife. Bake for about 45 minutes. Check half way through and rotate the pan for even browning. Remove the baklava from the oven and let cool.

Make the syrup. Combine the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Re-cut the baklava by running your knife through the pre-cut pieces to be sure they are cut all the way through. Carefully pour the hot syrup over the baklava, being sure to coat each piece. Garnish with the chopped pistachios, drizzle with a little honey and serve!

Makes about 28 pieces

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