Both Greeks and Turks claim this masterpiece of Middle Eastern sweets. It can be made with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pistachios, or a combination. Sticky honey syrups are not traditional. Instead, a simple sugar syrup flavored with lemon juice and zest is poured over the baklava after baking.
In a bowl, combine the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Brush a 9-by-l4-by-2-inch baking pan or baking dish with the melted butter or margarine. Have ready the filo sheets, keeping them covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Lay a filo sheet in the bottom of the pan or dish and brush it with the butter or margarine. Repeat, brushing each layer, until you have built up 9 or 10 layers. Spread the nut mixture evenly over the stack of but tered filo, then layer 9 or 10 more filo sheets on top, again brushing each sheet. Cover the pan and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until the butter firms up.
With a sharp knife, cut the filo stack all the way through into about 36 diamonds. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack.
While the baklava is baking, make the syrup: In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and lemon zest and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook until the syrup thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon zest strips and stir in the lemon juice. You can let the syrup cool before pouring it over the hot pastry, or you can pour the hot syrup over the hot pastry. Serve the pastry warm or at room temperature.
A cream filling can be used in place of the nut filling. In a saucepan, combine
© 2000 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.