Baklava is something I have been making for many years, thanks to my Mom. Her baklava was always a hit when she did catering or dinner parties. I thought eveyones Mom made baklava, hahaha, that seems really funny now.
Honestly though, Baklava is not hard, or expensive to make, but it is something that seems to impress people. The hardest part just may be remembering to buy the frozen phyllo dough a day or so ahead of time to thaw in the fridge. Don't try to thaw it quickly...it doesn't work and will make you crazy! I usually prep the day before by putting the phyllo in the fridge, making the clarified butter and the honey syrup and chilling those too. I recommend clarifying the butter. It cuts down on potential sogginess by removing the milk solids from the butter. See my notes at the very bottom of the post. It's very easy to do.
Phyllo dough itself can be a bit fussy as it is ultra-thin and can dry out and fall apart on you. Work fast and keep the phyllo covered with a barely damp cloth while you are working and you will do fine.
About the syrup, you don't have to use honey in it, many recipes just call for a sugar water syrup and some spices. I like the honey in mine, hence the recipe below, but my Mom and sisters seem to use the sugar version.
One more hint...I've been told by Greek's and Turk's that you always pour cold syrup on HOT baklava out of the oven. It stays crispier even after pouring all that syrup on it.
Makes a 9x13 pan with about 30 pieces
1 pkg (16 oz) of phyllo dough, thawed
1 lb nuts, walnuts or almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, clarified (see note at the bottom on this)
Syrup-3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of a small orange, about 1/4 cup (optional)
orange rind (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
First, make the sauce, let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes until it’s a bit thickened. Don’t boil it. Remove the orange rind and discard. Let it cool.
Chop nuts, 1/3 cup of sugar and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. I use the food processor and make it quite fine.
Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly using a pastry brush. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go, until you are out of nuts and almost out of phyllo. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep. End with more butter.
Put it in the fridge to chill, which makes it much easier to cut. 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.I use a whole clove in the center of each piece for more flavor and it kind of holds it together too. Don't eat the clove though...it's kind of spicy.
Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
Remove baklava from oven and immediately drizzle about half the sauce over it. Let it sit and soak for a while, then add the rest. Let cool. You may need to cut again to ensure it was done all the way earlier. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.
To clarify butter, add 1 1/2 cups (3 cubes) into a glass bowl. Microwave until melted. Chill until hard again. Remove the firm top and discard the milky solids at the bottom. Reheat until melted. As you can see here, I don't even bother to remove the wrappers, saves a little time.