I tried baklava for the first time in college with my Ancient Greek class. Someone threw a party after we finished reading Lysistrata, which is a pretty good excuse to have a freshman mixer if you ask me. So picture it: We’re all mingling and doing our very best to pack on that freshman 15 when someone hands me a piece of baklava. I take one bite and I’m in heaven. What is this delicious piece of flaky, buttery, nutty goodness?
I’ve always enjoyed baklava but I wasn’t inspired to make it until recently when my co-worker Samer was generous enough to share two panfuls with the office after the close of Ramadan. The pastry was fresh enough to still hold on to its oven warmth and every buttery bite melted on my tongue. I begged him for the recipe, which he had to get from his mother over the weekend. Luckily my groveling was 100% worth it. Thanks to Mrs. Samer’s Mom I was able to make this amazing treat for a Mediterranean-themed baby shower and THANK GOD because Mike and I would have surely devoured the entire pan ourselves if left to our own devices.
Recipe and instructions after the jump!
Turns out baklava, kind of like risotto, isn’t terribly difficult to make but it does require patience and repetition. Oh, and the foresight to let your phyllo dough thaw from the freezer before you start to unfold it. Just sayin’.
Ingredients for the pastry:
2 cups crushed walnuts and/or peanuts
1 cup of sugar
1 TB of cinnamon
3 sticks of margarine, melted (I went with butter and had more than I needed. 2 sticks would probably work, too)
cholesterol medication (Just kidding. Mostly.)
Ingredients for the syrup:
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1 TB of rose water (we found this at A. Litteri’s and ps: I want to shower with it, it smells so good)
A few drops of lemon juice
Set oven to 375. Roughly chop walnuts/peanuts. In a small bowl, mix nuts with sugar and cinnamon. Phyllo dough typically comes two packs per box. You will need both packs for this recipe. Begin to lay each layer of dough on your baking dish. Brush melted butter on each layer of phyllo dough. When you finish the first pack, spread half of the nut and sugar mixture across the top layer. Sprinkle a little more butter on top of that.
Start the same process with your second packet of phyllo dough, brushing butter on every layer. Once the second packet is complete, sprinkle the top with the remaining nut/sugar mixture and some rose water. Cut into diamond shapes and sprinkle with more rose water.
Place the tray in the middle of the oven and let it bake until it becomes golden brown; about 20 minutes or so. Take the pastry out and let it cool.
Time to move on to the syrup! Put ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Let it continue to boil for about 5 minutes. Pour syrup on cooled pastry.*** You don’t need to use all of the syrup – the more you use the sweeter your dessert will be.
***Mrs. Samer’s Mom was very clear about this in her directions. Do not add hot syrup to hot baklava. Let one cool down first. If you prefer, the syrup can be cooled instead although I find cool syrup a little harder to work with.