Baklava! It’s a sweet little piece of heaven, or should I say Mt. Olympus, that we just can’t get enough of. If made correctly it’s not too sweet, but any way it’s made it’s going to be something the dentist is going to want to talk to you about.
You can put this out at holidays, have it with coffee in the morning, or after a nice dinner, or just bring it to work where you will be the most popular person to arrive that day
WHAT IS IT?
Baklava is a layered phyllo dough confection with nuts and a honey syrup. In this case, we used walnuts, although pistachios are also popular. Baklava has existed for centuries, which indicated to me that it couldn’t be too hard to make. I mean, in the 1400’s there were no electric stoves, or ovens. And, what do you know…It’s easy. It just takes a little while.
I managed to make this particular baklava with a modicum of cursing and that was really only because phyllo is so thin that it falls apart sometimes when you pick up a sheet of it. I really don’t think it would even matter if the sheets ripped in half because, much like a lasagna, when it’s layered the structure of the whole maintains its strength despite some personal failings in the handling of the sheets of phyllo. In other words, it’s no big deal if a sheet or two are tossed in there all janky or ripped.
HERE’S THE STUFF YOU NEED
The ingredients are few, and you probably have most of them in your pantry.
- Phyllo sheets
- More Butter
THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT
I watched a video of somebody making their own phyllo once. Well, that’s not happening.
Get the ones from the grocery store. Phyllo sheets are in a box in the freezer section of the grocery store, near the pie crusts. If you can’t find them, stop shopping there.
Put them in the refrigerator at home, and take them out about an hour before you start. You want them pliable, so they don’t splinter into little pieces, which causes the kitchen cursing I mentioned earlier.
STEP BY STEP PHOTOS
THIS IS THE CHOPPER
Chop the nuts up relatively finely, but you do want some smaller chunks of nuts in there. Just most of it needs to be little pieces. Don’t pulverize them by any means. I use my wonderful Pampered Chef Food Chopper, which is ideal for this kind of thing. It chops quickly, as the blades rotate with each plunge, and it has a nice guard on the inside that keeps the pieces being chopped from getting stuck in the blades. I love this thing.
MAKE IT FIT
I’d say you start by buttering a 9×13 pan and start layering the phyllo, but honestly a 9×13 Pyrex dish isn’t 9×13 on the bottom of it. It’s more like 8×12. So I cut the first pieces to fit. By the time you get halfway up the pan it’s widened up to 9×13 and you can use whole sheets.
The process is simple. Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt a lot of butter in a pot, and while it is melting, use some other butter to grease the dish, bottom and sides. You want to make sure to use a small pot, because it’s definitely easier to brush from a deeper pot, than a larger, wider one.
PICKING THE CORRECT POT
PHYLLO, BUTTER & NUTS
While that butter is melting, use some other butter to grease the dish, bottom and sides. (I pick up a tablespoon of butter with my hand inside a plastic sandwich bag, and rub it all around the dish so I don’t have butterfingers and start dropping things). Then line up your phyllo, preferably under a damp towel unless you are a fast worker, buttered dish, melted butter, and nut mixture and get ready to go.
Lay down two sheets of phyllo, and brush lots of melted butter on top, then lay another two sheets, and more butter, then another… until you get to eight sheets. Butter the eighth one, and then sprinkle some of the nut mixture all over the top. How much you do is up to you, but I like about 4-5 tablespoons I think. I basically use a handful and sprinkle it like I’m spreading salt on the sidewalk before a winter storm.
IT’S GONNA STICK TO YOUR FINGERS
Then top that layer with two more sheets of phyllo, and brush on more butter. Add another layer of the walnut mixture, and keep repeating this until you are out of nuts, or think it is high enough. I lose track of how many layers it is, but you just have to make sure that the last layer is about 6 sheets of phyllo, with butter brushed on every two sheets, and then on the top.
Now the tricky part. Getting those triangles. You need a really sharp knife, and I use the Goldilocks method for choosing one. It can’t be too big and it can’t be too small. It has to be just right. Carefully cut the baklava layers you have created into four long strips, and then slice them in the other direction to make rectangles. I prefer the pieces to be about an 1.5”x1”. The knife is going to try to grab that top layer, so be careful to replace each little bit that lifts up.
Then, if you want triangles like I do, cut each piece in half diagonally. For this I use a small, but still very sharp knife. And the top layers are going to stick not only to the knife but to your fingers as well. My method is to hold one corner down with my index finger, cut the diagonal, and then hold that same corner down with the tip of the knife while I lift my finger off.
WHILE IT BAKES – MAKE THAT SYRUP
Place the pan in the preheated oven, and bake for roughly 40 minutes, until it is golden brown and flaky looking on top.This is a before picture, so don’t go thinking I believe that’s golden brown.
After about 15 minutes, you’re gonna put a cup of sugar and a cup of water in a pot, and turn on the burner so that it melts. Then add the vanilla, and ½ cup of honey. Stir that a lot, and lower the heat so that it bubbles but doesn’t overflow. If there is any danger of it overflowing, take it off the stove for a few seconds, because overflowing molten hot syrup is a mess, and dangerous.
YOU NEED THE BEST HONEY
The honey you use will definitely make a difference in the flavor. I used our favorite honey which was provided by my incredible father-in-law. He gathers this honey from his bees up in Cool Ridge, West Virginia. If you don’t have any homegrown honey in your life, you need a “Pops”, and you can’t have mine because there’s not enough of him to go around. He started with two hives, and within a few years had something like 30 hives of bees all happily working for him, providing a light and delectable honey for family and friends.
After twenty minutes of simmering and stirring, the syrup should be condensed and flavorful. Take it off the burner and, assuming the baklava is ready to come out of the oven, remove it from the oven and ladle the honey over it.
SYRUP THAT BABY UP
It will sizzle and bubble as it soaks into the layers of phyllo and walnuts. Do not over-syrup them. It won’t take all that syrup, but you do want them sticky and glistening.
STORAGE AND CONSUMPTION
You probably can’t eat all of this at one sitting, so you’re going to need to store it. Don’t put it in the refrigerator, as it will get soggy, and one of the joys of baklava is the crispiness of it. We place each piece in a cupcake paper, and store them in airtight containers. They will last for days, but seeing them sitting there on the counter is going to make it hard not to consume them all.Print
A layered phyllo dough confection with nuts and a honey syrup that we just can’t get enough of. Perfect for an after dinner dessert, or mid-morning snack that won’t weigh you down.
- 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
- 14 oz chopped walnuts, some chopped very fine
- 2 1/2 sticks butter
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
- Chop 14 oz walnuts and toss with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Set aside.
- Unroll package of phyllo dough. You might need to trim the edges to fit your pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
- Sprinkle a handful of the walnut/cinnamon mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, and walnut mixture again, layering as you go. The final top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.
- Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows then cut across, and then make the diagonal cuts. It helps to rinse knife and finger every couple of cuts. That keeps the knife and your fingers from sticking to the top layer.
- Bake for about 40-50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
- Make syrup while baklava is baking. Heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until sugar is melted. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 cup of honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently and keeping eye on pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
- Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. You won’t need all of the sauce. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. Store it in airtight containers so that it retains its crispiness.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Desserts
- Method: Baking
Keywords: Baklava, Desserts, Greek