Baklava

A Greek friend of mine had her sister teach a group of us how to make baklava. It’s not too hard a process, just a long, slow one, but the end result is well worth the time!

Syrup: (Make first.)
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 c. honey

Pastry:
1 lb. pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. phyllo dough (about 40 sheets), thawed
1 lb. butter, melted
whole cloves, optional

Syrup: Combine 3 c. sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly stir in honey and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. (*The syrup must be cool when you pour it over the hot baklava, so it’s best to make it first.)

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In a large bowl, combine the chopped nuts with the 1/2 c. sugar and the cinnamon; set aside.

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Open box of phyllo, placing the thin dough sheets on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Cover the dough with another sheet of wax paper, and cover that with a damp towel to keep the dough moist.

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Line the bottom of a buttered 9×13 pan with 12 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with melted butter as you go.

Sprinkle approximately 1/4 of the nut mixture over the 12-sheet layer of phyllo.

Cover with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with melted butter; sprinkle with more nut mixture. Repeat twice more, making a total of 4 nut mixture layers.

Cover with remaining phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter. Chill for 25 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut the uncooked pastry into small diamond shapes by cutting lengthwise strips, then diagonal strips.

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Brush top with melted butter. Bake for about an hour and a half or until baklava is a nice golden brown.

Remove from oven, recut along original cut marks, then slowly pour syrup over the hot baklava until it is completely absorbed. You may not need all the syrup. (I pour the leftover syrup into a small jelly jar and use it for sweetening hot tea. Mmmmmm…)

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Cool baklava completely before serving.

Since the baklava is preserved with honey, it will last at room temperature in a tightly closed container for several days, but it’s best to refrigerate unused portions. Baklava can be refrigerated for several weeks.

Optional: Whole cloves can be stuck into each diamond shape before baking. Be sure they are removed before serving.

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