Layered Filo Pastry

Baklava

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    36

    pieces

Appears in

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.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound blanched almonds, walnuts, or half almonds and half walnuts (about 4 cups), coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ pound unsalted butter, melted and clarified, or margarine, melted
  • 1 pound filo sheets (about 18 sheets), thawed in the refrigerator if frozen

For the Syrup

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 lemon zest strips, each 3 inches long
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method

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.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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.

Variation

A cream filling can be used in place of the nut filling. In a saucepan, combine 3 cups milk and ½ cup sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Place cup fine semolina or Cream of Wheat in a small bowl and add a bit of the hot milk, stirring to make a smooth paste. Stir this paste back into the hot milk. In a small bowl, whisk 3 eggs until blended. Whisk in a little of the hot milk mixture and then stir the eggs into the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon rose or orange-flower water, if desired. Let cool completely, then use in place of the nut filling. Cut and bake as directed.