By “we,” I mean several of my freshman, who I set to the laborious and tedious tasks of chopping nuts (we didn’t have a food processor) and brushing stick after stick of butter on layer after layer of tissue-paper-thin phyllo dough.
In my defense, we were making it for one of their birthdays, and she had specifically asked to learn how to make baklava.
I had never made it before, and I was appropriately wary…until I read a post on one of my all-time favorite blogs and she was pretty much like “baklava what? You can do it in your sleep.”
It turns out baklava is waaaaaaayy easier than I expected. In fact, according to Alton Brown, you don’t even need to cover the layers of phyllo dough with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out–as Jessica of How Sweet recommends–as long as you move fast enough (which isn’t even that fast. I learned this the lazy way as we didn’t bother with a cloth and the dough was fine.)
Alton Brown also suggests silicone brushes such as this one over nylon or natural bristles. While natural bristles are superior for loading butter, they also retain flavor extremely easily and are super hard to wash. Silicone brushes are also generally more heat-resistant than nylon (which Alton seems to dismiss as mostly useless, generally).
I didn’t make any healthy modifications to this recipe (since we were making it for my freshman’s birthday, right in front of her)…
…if we’re going to be honest, I made it worse. When cooking the simple syrup over the stove, we tasted it after we thought it was done and both decided it needed to be more sweet. So we added 1/4 cup more honey and 1/4 cup more sugar. Ack.
Tweaked from allrecipes.com
- 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
- 1 pound chopped nuts
- 1 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
- Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Trim stack to fit pan. Place one sheet of dough in pan and brush butter until surface is well-covered, but not soaked. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle approximately 1/4 cup of nut mixture on top. Continue to layer dough, butter, and nuts in the same fashion until you run out of nuts (should be 3-4 layers, counting the top). The 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 the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
- Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.